NHL 'feeling normal' after pandemic, Commissioner Bettman says

NHL ‘feeling normal’ after pandemic, Commissioner Bettman says

DENVER– The NHL generated record revenues projected to exceed $5.2 billion this season and plans to return to a normal calendar for 2022-23 as it continues to recover from the coronavirus pandemic, Commissioner Gary Bettman said Wednesday.

The 2022-23 regular season will begin Oct. 11 in North America, the Commissioner announced prior to Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final between the Colorado Avalanche and Tampa Bay Lightning at Ball Arena on Wednesday. The League previously announced the Nashville Predators and San Jose Sharks would play two regular-season games in the 2022 NHL Global Series at O2 Arena in Prague, Czech Republic on Oct. 7 and 8.

Those will be NHL’s first games in Europe since 2019. The full schedule is expected to be announced in early July.

“After two-and-a-half years, things are actually feeling normal,” Commissioner Bettman said. “We’re only a couple of weeks later than usual on the calendar.”

Commissioner Bettman noted that despite having to postpone and reschedule 105 games this season because of COVID-19, the NHL will exceed its revenue totals from 2018-19, the last full season before the pandemic.

“In fact, our revenues this season will be a record-high and within two, possibly creeping into three years we are anticipating resuming the more regular increases that the people had been growing to expect from the salary cap,” Commissioner Bettman said.

Video: Gary Bettman, Bill Daly Press Conference

NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly estimated that the League generated a “bit more than” $4.6 billion in revenue in 2018-19. As part of a four-year extension of the NHL/NHLPA Collective Bargaining Agreement in 2020, the NHL and NHL Players’ Association agreed to keep the salary cap flat at $81.5 million until hockey-related revenue surpasses $3.3 billion for the previous season.

The extension also stipulated that the salary cap won’t rise more than $1 million until HRR reaches $4.8 billion, unless the NHL and NHLPA mutually agree to inflate it in excess of $1 million. Deputy Commissioner Daly said following the general managers meetings in March that he informed the GMs that the salary cap is projected to increase $1 million to $82.5 million next season.

“What we’ve done is we’ve operated, we’ve done the fundamentals of our business, we continued to put on NHL hockey over the most difficult of circumstances and all of our partners, whether it’s corporate or media partners, were extraordinarily pleased with the result,” Commissioner Bettman said. “It is the cooperation and collaboration with the players and the Players’ Association that made that possible. We able to stabilize the business and power through.

“It didn’t mean that at times there weren’t challenges. It didn’t mean that at time we didn’t have to adjust. … But we did what we had to do to get through it.”

Among the other signs of the NHL returning to normalcy will be the 2022 NHL Awards in Tampa on June 21, which will be the first in-person awards show since 2019 in Las Vegas, and the 2022 NHL Draft at Bell Center in Montreal on July 7-8, which will be the first in-person draft since 2019 in Vancouver.

The NHL previously announced the Boston Bruins will face the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 2023 Discover NHL Winter Classic at Fenway Park in Boston on Jan. 2, the Florida Panthers will host the 2023 Honda NHL All-Star Weekend at FLA Live Arena in Sunrise, Fla., on Feb 3-4, and the Carolina Hurricanes will host the Washington Capitals in the 2023 Navy Federal Credit Union NHL Stadium Series at Carter-Finley Stadium in Raleigh, NC, on Feb. 18.

“That all sounds pretty normal and normal after the last two-and-a-half years feels pretty great,” Commissioner Bettman said. “Our league is strong, the strongest that it has ever been. Our clubs are strong and stable, the strongest and most stable they’ve ever been, our business is thriving and our game on the ice is sensational.”

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