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NHL's Bettman warns of a billion dollars in losses

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman.

It seems Gary Bettman’s state of the union address should have been typed in red.

Ledger losses by the NHL’s 31 teams of up to nine zeroes were on the commissioner’s mind as COVID-19 clouds a second season, this one already delayed by four months. Only a few American teams are allowing fans into their buildings at present.

“The magnitude of the loss starts with a ‘B’ (for billion),” Bettman told reporters on Monday. “We’re out of the ‘M’ range (for million).

“Let me make something really clear, we’re coming back to play this season because we think it’s important for the game, because our fans and our players want us to. And it may give people — particularly in isolation, or where there are curfews — a sense of normalcy and something to do.

“It would be cheaper for us to shut the doors and not play. We’re going to lose more money, at the club level and the league level, by playing than by not playing.”

Bettman said the league had loaned some teams money to get this 56-game schedule started, and while it’s true some teams questioned the wisdom of even playing in 2021 while the second wave of COVID-19 is so prevalent, the players are sacrificing financially, too. Their pay cheques are being partially held back or put in escrow to give back to the league, part of the Collective Bargaining Agreement changes to get the schedule under steam.

Bettman did say the league’s change in advertising direction this season, allowing logos on helmets and naming the four divisions after companies, will not extend to plastering non-NHL corporate signage all over sweaters and other player equipment.

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