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The Commish fires back

Gary Bettman answers our questions ... and yours

Posted: Tuesday May 1, 2007 1:19PM; Updated: Tuesday May 1, 2007 1:19PM
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Gary Bettman says the NHL has no plans to adjust the way overtime playoff games are decided.
Gary Bettman says the NHL has no plans to adjust the way overtime playoff games are decided.
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Disallowed goals. Late hits. The state of officiating. The unbalanced schedule. Oh yeah, and that American TV contract.

When the opportunity came up to spend some time with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, we wanted to know what topics were furrowing the brows of SI.com readers. Apparently, you had several hot button issues you wanted to discuss with the commish.

After wading through your feedback, and adding a few touches of our own, we caught up with Bettman by phone last week in Anaheim, Calif., where he was on his way to a playoff game at the Honda Center, and posed the questions you wanted answered.

SI.com: Let's start right now with one of the most violently controversial topics of the first round: Given the business realities of broadcasting, is there any pressure from American television to change the way the NHL decides playoff games? Will limitless overtime ever be replaced by a system that includes, at some point, a shootout?

Gary Bettman: No, that's not something we're looking at. We think the current system is the best in sports. We want that to continue. You know, these types of games, while they don't happen often, are what legends are made of.

SI.com: So you haven't had any feedback from NBC suggesting they might have a problem with an all-night game.

GB: No. Not at all. That's a discussion I've had with them, so that's not an issue for the Finals.

SI.com: It's that time of year, and the fans are in a lather, as usual, about the officiating. What are your thoughts on the work of your officials to this point of the playoffs?

GB: The officiating has been good, and for the most part the feedback we're getting both from the fans and the clubs is positive. Obviously there are a couple of places where the teams are not having the success the fans would like, but the officiating has been consistent. The standards are being upheld. There's always going to be a passionate response to calls at this critical time, but the officials are doing a terrific job. By the way, that's one of the reasons we don't think we'll be seeing too many marathon games. The way the games are being called isn't conducive to going long periods of time without penalties.

SI.com: Consistency can certainly be argued, but I think a couple of officials have really separated themselves from the pack with their work so far. Any officials that are standing out in the league's mind for the jobs they're doing?

GB: We don't like to single them out. As a group, they're doing a terrific job and the best of them will move on to the next round.

SI.com: Goal reviews are especially critical this time of year, but they've been at issue all season long. One of the criticisms heard around the league is that the guys making the calls don't always have access to the same angles as the broadcasters, or that there are different angles available in different buildings. When will the league standardize the process?

GB: Every building is different, so the configuration isn't always the same. Our video replay works great. I think it's the one that's the most admired in sports because of its consistency and because it's generally right. In the course of a regular season, I don't think we miss half a dozen calls and when we do it's frequently because the system breaks down. We get all the TV angles. Whatever TV puts up, we get to review and so it really hasn't been an issue, and in the playoffs, where there a fewer games going on, they get extra attention. Sometimes the calls are controversial, but we've been extremely comfortable with the results.

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