Gary Bettman Speaks: Avoiding a Playoff Bubble, Old Divisions, Recovered Revenue, Draft Changes, More

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Gary Bettman Speaks: Avoiding a Playoff Bubble, Old Divisions, Recovered Revenue, Draft Changes, More

Chicago Blackhawks

Thursday marks the one-year anniversary of the last day the NHL played games with full fans in attendance and the final day before the sports world (heck, the ENTIRE world) was turned upside down.

Since then, it’s been bubble playoffs in the summer, no fans in the stands (for most teams), a winter training camp, and a shortened season. The hope is that by October 2021, we are on track for a full 82-game season with an NHL that resembles what we knew back before March of 2020.

On Thursday, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly addressed the one-year anniversary, what the league is looking at in the near future as far as normalcy, and the potential for playing in the 2022 Winter Olympics.

One of the major issues the NHL has faced this season is the shortened schedule and not having the revenue from fans being able to attend games.

Teams that make the playoffs are expected to be hit a bit harder since those are going to be extra games not necessarily planned for that will also not generate gate revenue. But Bettman is optimistic that come playoff time, the seats will begin to be filled again and is hoping to avoid having to play in a bubble like the 2020 playoffs.

Speaking of lost revenues, the NHL introduced helmet sponsorships and sponsored divisions for the first time in league history. Two things that have made almost zero impact on the general experience of the game or as a fan, they have helped the league lose less money this season.

Another effect of the pandemic was the re-aligned divisions in the NHL.
Some like it, some have their reservations. Personally, I have loved having the Detroit Red Wings and Chicago Blackhawks back in the same division, for a few reasons. But it seems like the newly aligned divisions will remain a one-and-done deal.

RIP the All-Canadian division.

This summer’s draft has been rumored to be moved back due to the pandemic. Deputy Commissioner Daly made it seem like the July draft would stay in July.

As far as the proposed Draft Lottery changes, the NHL Board Of Governors is expected to vote on them by the end of next week.

As far as the lottery changes go, the overarching theme is that they would be put in place to avoid teams trying to “tank” their way to better odds of winning the lottery. It also would make it so teams, like the Edmonton Oilers in the past, not able to win the draft more than twice in a five year span.


The NHL started the 2019-20 season in Europe and the Chicago Blackhawks opened the year with a game in the Czech Republic against the Philadelphia Flyers. The NHL still plans to get back to playing preseason and regualr season games internationally, but it appears that those are going to be put on the back-burner until travel restrictions are lightened.

As for the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, the plan is still to make it work where NHL players would be able to participate in the games, but those are still far away from being settled. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) will be more of a challenge to getting NHL players back in the Olympics than the IIHF will pose, but the expectation is still to have them there.

Finally, one of the biggest differences in my experience as a fan and as a writer is the access to teams. Media members have not been able to get the same kind of personal access to teams and players since the pandemic broke out in March. Much of the high quality content and journalism surrounding the league and around sports as a whole comes from journalists being able to be up close to the teams and players they cover. Fans love those stories and they haven’t been able to be put together in the same way for a year. It appears that will go back to the old ways, once it is safe.

That’s great news for those who love following the sport and love covering the sport, alike. I’ve actually kind of missed the smell of a locker room. Not going to lie.

Author: Mario Tirabassi

Mario Tirabassi is a writer for Bleacher Nation. You can follow him on Twitter @Mario_Tirabassi.