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Outdoor game in works

Bettman confirms league’s interest in ’Peg-hosted Heritage Classic

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PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. — NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and various members of his staff spent Monday and Tuesday briefing the league’s owners and a selection of GMs on a number of matters including player safety, a concussion lawsuit being brought against the league and future participation in the Olympics.

Here are some highlights:

HERITAGE CLASSIC IN WINNIPEG: "We had a discussion with (Jets chairman) Mark Chipman where we said we would like to have an outdoor game in Winnipeg, Heritage Classic, and Mark said, ‘That’s great.’ We said, ‘We’re not ready to make any announcements and what is your preference on dates?’ He gave us a preference of (2016). There’s no formal agreement, announcement or anything else. It’s still a work in progress, but at some point in the next few years — perhaps ’16, perhaps not — we’ll have an outdoor game in Winnipeg,"

WORLD CUP TALK: "(COO) John Collins gave a business update. We talked a little bit about the discussions that we were having in general with the players’ association. I think it’s no secret that we collectively believe having a World Cup on a regular basis makes sense, the specifics we’re not there yet on. It’s something we need to do jointly with the players’ association."

STIFF SUSPENSIONS: "I believe the sense in the room is that (vice-president) Brendan Shanahan and the department of player safety has the confidence of the board of governors. He certainly has my confidence. He is doing a good job.

"My guess is people don’t analyze the things he does and the detail that he does. If you studied the videos that he’s put online, the specific instances where supplemental discipline is imposed or the more general tapes that he’s put online explaining what the standards are of play, people should take a great deal of comfort that we’re being extraordinarily proactive. In a game where through the course of a season you have 55,000 hits, as Brendan said today, there are probably 50 or 100 that we don’t like, but it’s again about an ongoing education process. It’s about modifying an element of the game’s culture and we think we’ve made positive, dramatic steps forward."

LEAGUE EXPANSION: "We’re getting lots of expressions of interest and no decisions have been made to do anything other than listen. We haven’t embarked on a formal expansion process, but when people want to talk to us we listen.

"We’re not talking ’14-15. I don’t even know if we’re talking ’15-16. All we’re talking about is we listen when the expressions of interest are given."

LEAGUE STRENGTH: "We love the fact that we’re on a strong foundation and we really have an opportunity to grow things even more and better. I think the future of the game has never been brighter and I know we and everybody in the board room is excited about that."

RELATIONS BETWEEN THE LEAGUE AND PA: "Actually, we engage with the players’ association on a regular basis. One of the reports (deputy commissioner Bill Daly) made today had to do with the nine committees that we have with the players’ association to work together on things that impact the game.

"If you think back, we went through a period where we had five different executive directors of the union in a relatively brief period of time. There is stability now in the union and that is a positive not just for the players in the union, that is a positive for us because you can’t build a strong working relationship based on trust when the cast of characters is changing every few months. The strength and stability of the union I think is important as we try to accomplish the things we want to do moving forward."

OLYMPICS DISCUSSION PAST SOCHI: "I think the issue on that is twofold. One ,we’re going to have to evaluate the experience so it’s not going to happen until after that. And two, it’s going to be put into the context of what else we may want to be doing internationally. And as it always is it’s a joint decision with the players’ association."


gary.lawless@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @garylawless

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 11, 2013 D4

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