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Gary Bettman made right call on Southern California hockey

SportsIce HockeyGary BettmanAnaheim DucksDonald SterlingLos Angeles KingsPaulina Gretzky
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NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman knew what was coming Monday as soon as the question began.

A little more than 21 years ago, at a news conference in Anaheim to announce the birth of the Ducks franchise — then called the Mighty Ducks — he got into the spirit of the thing and joined a group of dignitaries in blowing air through a small wooden duck call that produced a loud quaaaack.

The first words reminding him of that day inspired Bettman to reenact that duck-call moment, certainly one of the most memorable occasions in the team’s early history.

“I don’t have the call but I have the picture,” Bettman said Monday before the Ducks and Kings met at the Honda Center for Game 2 of their second-round playoff series.

He also had a vision that hockey in Southern California, already entrenched with the presence of the Kings and given a lift by Wayne Gretzky’s arrival in 1988, could grow even more with a second team in the area. The excitement over the teams’ playoff series is what he hoped for and expected.

“And I think there’s still more yet to come,” said Bettman, who has been visiting playoff cities since postseason play began.

"I think the best is still in front of it. If you look at the incredible development — it started with Wayne — but the fact that there’s now a culture of hockey in Southern California, which is personified by what we’re seeing in these playoffs, it cuts across what we did with realignment and what’s being done at the grass roots and the rivalry that these teams have developed.

“And the fact that they’ve had excellent histories recently, with Stanley Cups.”

Bettman also said that though he has had “lots of thoughts” about staging another outdoor game because of the success of the game played between the Kings and Ducks at Dodger Stadium on Jan. 25, he had no schedule to announce for future outdoor games. He did say the league next season would stage more than one such game but fewer than the six that were played this season.

Bettman, a former NBA senior vice president, also was asked his reaction to the events surrounding the Clippers’ ownership in the wake of controversial comments made by owner Donald Sterling, and for his thoughts on how NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has dealt with the situation. Silver fined Sterling $2.5 million, issued a lifetime ban and made it clear he would like to see Sterling sell the team.

“We are all about inclusiveness and diversity and those sentiments that were expressed by Mr. Sterling have no place not just in the NBA but in sports, or in this world,” Bettman said. “Commissioner Silver stepped up and did what he had to do under the circumstances.”

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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