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NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman visits L.A. on banner night for Kings

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman visits L.A. on banner night for Kings
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman speaks during an interview in his New York office Tuesday. Bettman attended the Kings' season opener against the San Jose Sharks on Wednesday. (Richard Drew / Associated Press)

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman doesn't often allow himself to appear surprised when he's in public, but his face wore a look of astonishment Wednesday as he examined the Stanley Cup ring handed to him by Jeff Moeller, the Kings' senior director of communications and content.

"This is very cool," he said. "And very heavy."

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The Kings got their 2014 Stanley Cup championship rings on Monday in a private ceremony, but Bettman was at Staples Center on Wednesday to watch the final celebration of their triumph: the raising of their Stanley Cup banner. Saying he wasn't here to break news but to "watch the Kings and their fans celebrate their well-deserved honor and hard-earned championship," he touched on a number of topics in an informal pregame news conference.

The highlights:

-- According to Bettman, the NHL is in good shape competitively and in terms of stability. "I think it's fair to say that we start this season, the 14-15 season, with great anticipation," he said. "There's a lot of excitement, there's a lot of buzz and that's probably because we're coming off what people think is the best season we've ever had. I think in terms of the artistry and competitiveness and excitement and entertainment of the game and it was our best season off the ice as well. We anticipate more and even better."

-- After going from six outdoor games last season to two this season, Bettman said the number probably will increase in the future. "Two isn't necessarily the right number. Six isn't the right number. It's probably going to be somewhere in between," he said.

-- Seeing the NBA's new nine-year, $25-billion TV agreement with TNT and ESPN doesn't make him regret the 10-year, $2-billion agreement the NHL signed with NBC in 2011. "You have to remember what the market was when we did it," he said. "For us, the deal that we have, was transformational … and the first time we had all games of the Stanley Cup playoffs on national TV. Based on what's happening in the marketplace, the next time we go into the marketplace I'm sure we will do quite well."

-- The NHL is focused first on having a World Cup tournament before considering playing regular-season games in Europe again. There's no news on the Olympic front; the NHL and the NHL Players' Assn. have not committed to participating in the 2018 Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

-- The NHL has discussed behavioral issues such as domestic violence with its players for more than a decade. Domestic violence has come to the forefront in the NFL in recent months because of incidents involving prominent players. "We focus on counseling and education," Bettman said, adding that the league has mechanisms in place to deal with such incidents. The league's security department discusses it with players during annual meetings.

-- The league is getting "lots of expressions of interest" in expansion and will continue to listen but isn't exploring expansion now and hasn't set a value for potential additions.

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