Bettman confident Flyers will eventually rebound, regain fans’ support

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman

PHILADELPHIA – NHL commissioner Gary Bettman’s tour across North America for “opening night’’ games made a stop in Philly on Thursday night and at a pre-game press briefing, it didn’t take long for someone to get his take on the Flyers.

In terms of attendance, the Flyers suffered through one of their worst seasons ever last year. Bettman was asked if the NHL is concerned about a Wells Fargo Center which used to sell out on a regular basis.

“This has always been a terrific franchise with great fan support,’’ Bettman said. “And teams go through cycles. We’re not worried about long-term connectivity with fans with this team. Particularly when you see what’s been done to the building and it’s a fun place to go. And the fans will be back in greater numbers.’’

The Flyers averaged just over 16,000 in a building which holds 19,000-plus. It was the lowest average attendance in Philadelphia since the 1972-73 season.

“I wouldn’t read too much into last season,’’ Bettman said. “Last season, for lack of a better word, was funky. COVID was there. I’m sick of COVID.

“So don’t read too much into it. This is a team under Torts (coach John Tortorella), they play hard. I’m not worried about this franchise. This team always spends to the cap. Ownership remains totally committed.’’

The commissioner also commented on the progress toward having the NHL and professional women’s hockey reach some sort of partnership, something similar to the NBA-WNBA affiliation.

“I believe to create a viable league for women, which I think is important, it can’t be fragmented,’’ Bettman said. “Having two organizations that haven’t been able to get on the same page I think remains problematic. Last spring I hosted a meeting to get at least people thinking about talking to each other, thinking about working together. I think it’s going to take a little time to sort itself out. But I do believe the women’s game is important. There should be professional representation but it’s going to take the right circumstances for it to be successful.’’

The NHL has partnered with a lot of gambling sites and a lot of people thought that when the NHL did that, the reports on injuries would be more specific than upper body, lower body. Like the NFL. Are there any plans to get more specific now that you’re involved with gambling?

Bettman said, “No. Everything we do, whether it’s sports betting or technology, that has to adapt itself to the game. You don’t change the game for those things. Sometimes our players play the game a little hurt. That is something they take great pride in. If you’re going to bet on one of our games, you’re going to do it with the understanding the basis on which we do or don’t disclose injuries.’’

In a question related to the aforementioned women’s hockey as it relates to the NHL, Bettman was asked about the status of female officials working in the NHL.

“We’ve been encouraging and working with women officials in the minor league levels,’’ Bettman pointed out. “I think it’s just a question of time. That’s an individual thing depending on how good the individuals are. It’s closer than it’s ever been. And I think it’s going to happen. And I think that’s a good thing.’’

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About Wayne Fish 2452 Articles
Wayne Fish has been covering the Flyers since 1976, a stint which includes 18 Stanley Cup Finals, four Winter Olympics and numerous other international events.