NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, conducting his annual state of the league news conference hours before the start of the Stanley Cup Final, declared this season a rousing success based on record attendance and television viewership on NBC, healthy competitive balance, and the success of the six outdoor games played this season, including the Kings' matchup against the Ducks at Dodger Stadium on Jan. 25.
The Final, the NHL's showcase event, began Wednesday with the Kings hosting the New York Rangers at Staples Center. It marked the first time these teams from the league's two largest markets have faced each other with the Cup at stake.
In discussing the league's robust state, Bettman made an unmistakable reference to the labor dispute and league-imposed lockout that shortened the 2012-13 season before the NHL and the players' association agreed on a new labor contract.
"In fact by almost any measure, this may have been the most successful season on and off the ice in league history," Bettman said. "There has been a lot written, discussed and debated about the road we took to get to this point, where we are today, but I'm always one who likes to look forward.
"Our objective always was and is to make a great game even greater, to give our fans the best sports experience and entertainment possible and the best possibilities to connect with our game."
Bettman, a former NBA executive, said he was not surprised to hear of the Clippers' sale for $2 billion. He said the seemingly high price could be attributed to the uniqueness of the Los Angeles market or unique circumstances of the buyer, former Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer.
"Whether or not that means franchises in the NBA or any other sport are proportionately impacted, I'm not so sure to the dollar," Bettman said, "but if the Clippers are worth $2 billion, we have plenty of franchises that are worth that, if not more."
Bettman touched on a number of subjects, including the NHL's involvement in future international tournaments. He said no substantive discussions have taken place regarding NHL players' participation in the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, a matter that requires agreement from the players' association. He wouldn't confirm reports the NHL will support a revived World Cup event, to be played in either 2015 or 2016. "It's not something that's fully baked," he said.