NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Gary Bettman said his relationship with the union has never been better. Perhaps that’s why he is willing to stick around as NHL commissioner into the next decade.
Bettman has signed a contract through 2022, according to a person familiar with the situation. The person spoke to The Associated Press on Sunday morning on condition of anonymity because the NHL didn’t announce the move. The deal was first reported by Sports Illustrated.
He has been the league’s leader since 1993 when it had 24 teams. Now, it has 30 franchises and there may be one or two more in a couple of years.
After Bettman’s state-of-the-league news conference Saturday, he said the World Cup of Hockey and the 3-on-3 format for overtime and the All-Star game Sunday are “great examples” of how well he and NHL Players’ Association Executive Director Don Fehr are getting along.
“Don has brought stability and strength to the union, and that’s a good thing,” Bettman said. “He’s been a good working partner. That doesn’t mean we agree on everything, but we’re communicating well and working things out.”
Clearly, that has not always been the case.
The NHL has had three labor-related work stoppages under Bettman. A lockout eliminated the 2004-05 season and labor strife shortened the 2012-13 and 1994-95 seasons. The current collective bargaining agreement with the NHLPA expires in 2022, the same year Bettman’s new contract ends. Both sides, though, can opt out in 2019.
The NHL can exercise its option to end the deal Sept. 1, 2019, and if the league doesn’t the NHLPA can opt out of it two weeks later.
Bettman said what pleases him most about how the NHL is operating is that the players in the league have helped it strike a better competitive balance than any other one in professional sports. He would not, however, talk about what he likes and dislikes most about a job he will now have for several more years. “I don’t boil those things down, or think that way,” Bettman said.
Thumbnail photo via Tom Szczerbowski/USA TODAY Sports Images
Thumbnail photo via Sep 9, 2015; Toronto, Ontario, Canada; NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr appear on stage together during a press conference and media event for the 2016 World Cup of Hockey at Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports