There has been a lot of buzz the last few days around the USA vs. Canada hockey game that was played Sunday afternoon. The TV ratings in the US were better than any NBA Finals or World Series game in the past 10 years. The Canadians came into the game as the overwhelming favorite but it was the Americans that had the upperhand. Just one week prior, USA shocked Canada with a 5-3 defeat which sent a message to hockey fans around the world that American ice hockey is back. With both the men’s and women’s teams playing in the Gold Medal game, it seems as though ice hockey has caught on in this country and we can now compete with any team in the World. It remains to be seen in what capacity this will impact have on the NHL, but what I do know is that USA hockey is legit and here to stay.
The NHL Commissioner, Gary Bettman, joined WFAN in New York with Boomer and Carton to talk about his perspective on how this year’s Olympics will impact the sport, how he thinks the future of having young players on the USA team will impact the sport in America, and the notion that as of right now Russian players will not be playing in the next Winter Olympics on home soil.
His perspective on how this year’s Olympics will impact the sport:
“We were thrilled to be going to the Olympic Games in Vancouver. We knew it would be a great atmosphere, well-hosted and presented games and we knew that it would be a great hockey tournament. When you combine Olympics in North America with a match-up between US and Canada it is all good. I mean the ratings were through the roof.”
Whether he has a number on the ratings of the USA vs. Canada game:
“Do you want to make a guess? (Host: I had the over/under of 15 million.) I think you are low. We did a 17.6 over that… It’s a big time number but that is what this is all about, really exposing more people to the game and that was our game on display yesterday. It was an NHL arena, it was NHL ice, it was basically NHL rules with NHL officials and NHL players.”
How he thinks the future of having young players on the USA team will impact the sport in America:
“In fact, to make that point even further Boomer, I am not sure which year I am talking about because I didn’t get back last night until three in the morning and I am in the office as you can tell. Our team is something like four years younger than it was in either Torino or Salt Lake City which means there are great crops of NHL stars who are still kids and I think that bodes well of the continued development of the game in the United States.”
How important he thinks the Zach Parise goal was in cementing the Olympic Finals game as a classic:
“You are absolutely right. As I was watching the game, I am an American obviously, but as I was watching the game analytically as the NHL Commissioner, I was just hoping that the game would stay close and compelling because when you go back to the prior game that the US had played against Finland well it was a complete blowout. It wasn’t a very good game after the first ten minutes… So I am busy thinking to myself that I hope that it stays close so the audience will at least stay with the game and it was close throughout. When the empty-net goal was scored and taken to overtime, I couldn’t believe it. It was almost surreal. The atmosphere in the building, stunned because it was really a pro-Canadian crowd as you would expect and it was one of those moments. Being in Vancouver, it was like you could see people on the street early Sunday morning lining up at bars and restaurants going in and watching communally. I think the streets were empty throughout virtually the country of Canada while the game was going on. I haven’t seen the number out of Canada yet but…”
On the notion that, as of right now, Russian players will not be playing in the next Winter Olympics on home soil:
“You know what? I admire their passion for both the game and their homeland. I love the fact that our guys love to play in international competition but there is a broader set of issues that we have to weigh. By the way, the media and not you guys are making a big deal about this. When we were in Salt Lake City in 2002, we didn’t know whether or not we were going to Torino or Vancouver. That is a decision that is left to the future. We haven’t decided that we are going and we haven’t decided that we are not going. It is not an issue that we do not have to deal with for another couple of years. Even the networks haven’t decided who is carrying the games in Sochi yet. There is plenty of time to deal with this.”