NHL commissioner Gary Bettman addressed the league’s potential participation in the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing among other topics on Monday in his annual state-of-the-league address prior to the Stanley Cup Final.
Bettman, who was joined by deputy commissioner Bill Daly, also announced that the league intends to start an 82-game season for 2021-22 in mid-October. The NHL began the 2020-21 campaign on Jan. 13 as it dealt with complications surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic.
With respect to the Beijing Olympics, Bettman expressed doubt about the logistics of participating in the event without a deal in place beforehand. The Beijing Olympics are slated to be contested from Feb. 4-20, 2022.
“We’re already past the time that we hoped this would be resolved,” Bettman said. “We’ll deal with it, just as we’ve managed to be agile and flexible over the last 15 months. But we’re getting to be on a rather short time frame now, because this can’t go on indefinitely.”
Time is running short considering the league reportedly is intent on revealing the 2021-22 season schedule prior to the 2021 NHL Draft on July 23-24.
The NHL also will need to shut down the regular season for two weeks should it participate in the Beijing Games.
As for contentious topic of officiating during the playoffs, Bettman appeared to go to great lengths to defend the zebras.
“It seems every season, it’s a playoff ritual for me to address some aspect of officiating,” Bettman said. “Let’s be clear. Our officials are not only the best hockey officials in the world, they’re the best officials in any sport.”
Bettman then conceded that mistakes indeed happen, and they are magnified in the playoffs.
“We don’t like it when it happens, in fact, we hate it,” Bettman said. “But it’s the nature of the human element in calling our game. Even with the human element, we have been and will continue to be at the forefront of adding technology to assist in their efforts.”
Bettman also was asked for the league’s response in regard to recent sexual assault allegations made against former Chicago Blackhawks assistant coach Brad Aldrich.
Per a lawsuit filed by an unidentified former Blackhawks player, the then-video coach Aldrich sexually assaulted both him and another player during the team’s run to the Stanley Cup title in 2010.
“Let us see what the investigation reveals, and then we can figure out what comes next,” Bettman said. “I think everyone is jumping too far, too fast. This is going to be handled appropriately and professionally, and done right.”
ESPN obtained an internal memo to staffers by Blackhawks CEO Danny Wirtz, who said the team was retaining former federal prosecutor Reid Schar to conduct an independent review.
In 2013, Aldrich was convicted of fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct involving a high school student and was placed on the sex offender registry in the state of Michigan. He was sentenced in 2014 to nine months in prison and five years of probation.
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