SUNRISE, Fla. — Gary Bettman confirmed the worst-kept secret in South Florida on Saturday, announcing — right before the puck dropped on the 2023 All-Star Game — that the 2024 event would be hosted by the Toronto Maple Leafs.
The NHL commissioner did need a little help from his deputy, Bill Daly, making the announcement, though, after Bettman accidentally said the Leafs would be hosting the 2014 event.
“It’s been a long weekend, let me try it again,” the commish said, joking.
After making it clear we would not, in fact, be travelling back in time for the next All-Star Game, a couple of members of the Leafs organization — president of hockey operations Brendan Shanahan and 2023 All-Star Game participant Mitch Marner — came out to look ahead to the event.
“Just seeing how the (2016) NBA All-Star was, I’m sure the NHL will be even bigger,” Marner said.
Shanahan actually participated in the most recent All-Star Game hosted by Toronto, 23 years ago, in 2000.
“I don’t remember much about the game,” he said, joking. “I asked Mitch how old he was (then), and he was quite young, so he didn’t remember, so told him I won the car.
“As someone (who), like Mitch, who grew up in Toronto, we love our hockey and to celebrate the game.”
Bettman and Daly addressed a number of topics during their roughly 30-minute-long press conference. Some of the pertinent points are listed below.
• On Jan. 17, Ivan Provorov of the Philadelphia Flyers didn’t take part in a warmup in which the Flyers wore Pride Night-themed sweaters. About a week later, the New York Rangers hosted their Pride Night, and while the club went ahead with a number of other plans, they opted not to wear Pride-themed sweaters before the game.
Bettman was asked a couple of questions about this and stressed the need to respect individual choice. “You know what our goals and our values and intentions are across the league, whether it’s at the league level or at the club level, but we also have to respect some individual choice and some people are more comfortable embracing causes than others,” he said. “Part of being diverse and welcoming is understanding those differences.”
Asked in a follow-up if allowing players to opt out of such things opened the door to bigotry, Bettman stayed the course. “You’re taking the bridge too far,” he said. “Whether or not you choose to embrace and make a statement on behalf of a cause affirmatively, if you choose not to, it doesn’t necessarily make you a bigot.”
• We haven’t had a best-on-best tournament since the 2016 World Cup. Though players are on record about wanting to go to the Olympics — and with the league’s desire to have a regular World Cup also well known — there’s still no formal plans for the next best-on-best event.
“Bill and I met with (IIHF president Luc Tardiff) yesterday,” Bettman said. “We each re-expressed our desires to work together on a variety of fronts. I know it’s important to the players and they would like to play in the Olympics, but certain things are going to have to be done by some combination of the International Olympic committee, the International Ice Hockey Federation and the local organizing committee in order for that to become a reality.”
As for the World Cup, Bettman said that’s something they need to work closely with the NHLPA on and, with the PA deep into the process of electing a new executive director, Bettman and Daly both alluded to at different times, there’s a sense players’ association may be preoccupied.
“With respect to a World Cup, it’s something we’ve been very clear about, we want to bring it back on a regular schedule,” Bettman said. “It’s something we do in partnership with the players’ association and, for a whole host of reasons, we need a little more time to put it together.”
Daly said he believed the NHL and IIHF share a vision on how things need to get done, and Bettman agreed. “We have a very good working relationship with Luc, and think he’s off to a very good start in terms of what he’s doing with the IIHF,” he said.
• In December at the board of governors meeting, Bettman indicated the salary cap might not rise by more than $1 million for next season (it’s currently $82.5 million). Apparently, not much has changed since then and Daly didn’t indicate it was a front-burner issue right now. “There’s really no change in our projections from where they were in December,” he said. “It remains the same and we have not engaged with the players’ association on that specific issue.”