National Hockey League owners are likely to extend the contract of commissioner Gary Bettman at the upcoming Board of Governors’ meeting next month in New York during the Stanley Cup Finals, according to people familiar with the matter, who were granted anonymity because it is private.
Bettman’s current six-year contract extension, signed in 2016, was set to expire after the current season. The NHL’s board, consisting of a representative of each of its 32 teams, will choose a commissioner “elected by a majority of the Governors present and voting at a League meeting…”, according to the NHL’s constitution. Bettman is hockey’s first and only commissioner, with the role previously filled by a league president.
The NHL confirmed the June meeting in New York, without a set date, but declined to comment on Bettman’s status. “The commissioner has never commented on questions like this and won’t this time,” a league spokesman said in an email.
Bettman, who will turn 70 on June 2, has been commissioner of the league since Feb. 1, 1993, and has overseen its growth to 32 teams, including recent expansion franchises in Seattle and Las Vegas. NHL revenues have also rebounded to nearly pre-pandemic levels.
The league has been bolstered as well by the privately-funded reconstruction of the Climate Pledge Arena in Seattle-at a cost of $1.15 billion- as well as the New York Islander’s new $1.3 billion UBS Arena at Belmont Park, which opened this season.
Under the guidance of Bettman and long-time deputy commissioner Bill Daly, the NHL survived through three seasons plagued by the coronavirus.
The 2019-20 season was halted on March 12, 2020, resuming four months later with playoffs in the bubble environments of empty arenas in Toronto and Edmonton.
For 2020-21, the league was realigned with geographic divisions that had Canadian teams playing only against each other during the regular season, as regional health and safety protocols restricted the number of fans attending games.
This past season, division alignments returned to normal, and teams could play at full capacity until the omicron strain led to postponements and renewed attendance restrictions in Canada.
The COVID surge forced the NHL to postpone 105 games before the All-Star Game in Las Vegas and cancel participation in China’s Winter Olympics. The league used the planned three-week Olympic break to reschedule contests, allowing for a complete 82-game schedule for the first time since the 2018-19 season.
“In the absence of that roughly three-week period, I’m not sure how we would’ve been able to finish the season on any rational or irrational basis,” Bettman said during an All-Star media conference.
Bettman added that although COVID diminished hockey-related revenue (HRR), it will still be in the $5 billion range this season. It was $5.09 billion for the last full NHL season.
HRR in the NHL was as low as $2.27 billion during the 2005-2006 season and has more than doubled since.