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The Commish Speaks

CommishATLANTA -- NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman addressed the media Saturday afternoon on the Hawks' practice court and spoke on a number of issues.

Bill Daly and Colin "Soup Sr." Campbell were by Bettman's side and had a few things to add to the festivities as well.

The highlights: As we all knew, four teams are going to open next season at EuroDisney. The Bolts and Rangers will play in Prague, Sens and Pens going to Stockholm. Good for them. Also, the Rangers are going to use their training camp to take on European champ Mattalurg Magnitogorsk in the Victoria Cup.

Bettman -- The NHL says it's trying to be more sensative to the enviroment, Bettman joking "we don't want the ice to melt.''

-- Bettman says the league is playing in front of 92 percent capacity crowds. Not the games I'm going to, Gar. And I'm not ripping Florida, either. I see empty arenas all over the place. Except in Montreal.

-- Bettman says the NHL Network has been well received in the states, and I can't agree more. What a great channel. I love it. You should too.

Alyssa5 -- Alyssa Milano joined us at media day. Didn't know if you'd heard.

-- GB adds parity is great for the league. "You have the hope,'' he said, "you have the expectation that whoever you root for has a chance to do it all.''

-- No update on the sale of the Lightning, although Bettman says he's staying on top of this group more than he did the last one.

-- A dude from a sports radio station in Vegas (Hello Mr. Bettman, this is Jack Smith from 1200 The Ticket and Team in Las Vegas, Nevada and I was wondering...) who asked about the future of hockey on the strip. Nothing new to report, but I know GB is going to get this one done. He knows hockey has to be in Vegas. Has to.

-- GB also had some statistics to say the prices of hockey tickets haven't gone up -- on average -- in five years. I faded out on that one too. I should have asked if parking fees being included in tickets counted in his survey, but didn't. I just now thought of it. Will ask next time I see him.

-- Speaking of numbers, Versus put out a release saying its ratings are up through the first half of the season. Versus has done NHL games since the start of the 2005-06 season and have signed on for three more years. I think they've done a real nice job of covering the game, although they have a ways to go in getting their network into homes. They'll never be ESPN and I think the league needs to be back on the Worldwide Leader sometime soon.

That said, Versus is giving it a great effort and treats the NHL like gold. As I've written before, that's because the NHL is gold compared the junk this network usually shows. Seriously, it's bad.

The good news: Versus ratings are up 50 percent over last year. The bad: They went from a minuscule .2 to a still pretty tiny .3

Total viewership is up 34 percent, from 196K to 262K per game. That's still a very small number but some growth is better than none. More people are watching and that's cool.