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Bettman receives Sports Business Journal Lifetime Achievement Award



It’s been his goal, his passion and his priority the past 30 years.

“The world is evolving, and if you don’t move forward, think big, then you’re going to fall backward,” Bettman said. “It’s about finding new ways to connect. It’s about looking to use the things that are part of our world now that weren’t part of our world when I started in sports, and it gives you an opportunity to use the platform that sports represent to do more than ever before.”

It’s because of that belief and foresight that Bettman received the Sports Business Journal Lifetime Achievement Award on Wednesday. It was presented during the national weekly trade magazine’s 2023 Sports Business Awards at the New York Marriott Marquis.

“I’ve always tried to never make this about me,” Bettman said. “It’s about the owners, it’s about the fans. It’s about the people who work here and at the clubs, and if I reflect all of that effort, then I’m good with that.”


Bettman celebrated his 30th anniversary on the job Feb. 1 and surpassed the late David Stern, who was NBA commissioner from Feb. 1, 1984 to Feb. 1, 2014, as the longest-serving commissioner of the four major men’s professional sports leagues in North America.

Bettman was NBA senior vice president and general counsel under Stern before being elected the first commissioner of the NHL at age 40 on Dec. 11, 1992.

“The specifics of basketball vs. hockey isn’t what I learned,” Bettman said when asked about his time at the NBA. “What I learned was the importance of relationships, the importance of being thorough and doing your homework. The importance of focusing on what your goal is and the importance of making decisions for the right reasons, meaning you do your homework, you make as informed a decision as you can and you don’t do it for political reasons, because political and popular reasons can change in the moment.

“You’ve got to do what you think is right because if you’re wrong, at least you did it because you thought it was right. And that’s how you sleep at night.”

Sports Business Journal listed among Bettman’s accomplishments the growth of the NHL during his tenure from 24 to 32 teams and an increase in League revenue from about $400 million per season to a record $5.2 billion last season. Bettman confirmed Wednesday that number has since risen to $6 billion.

“It’s gone in the blink of an eye,” Bettman said about his 30 years on the job. “I have trouble understanding how it could go this quickly, but my job is to worry about playing a game, and that’s a business? It doesn’t get any better than that and not just because of the game but because of everything we can do with our platforms to make a difference.”

Bettman has presided over 55 percent of the games in NHL history, and 600 million-plus people have attended games during his tenure.

Sports Business Journal also credited Bettman’s “penchant for creativity” through expansion and relocation for establishing thriving teams in nontraditional markets, with the Dallas Stars, Nashville Predators, Carolina Hurricanes and Vegas Golden Knights as prime examples.

The NHL became the first major professional sports league with a team in Las Vegas when the Vegas Golden Knights joined the League in 2017-18. The Seattle Kraken joined the NHL in 2021-22 as its 32nd team.

The NHL Winter Classic, the annual outdoor game launched in 2008, has developed into a major regular-season tentpole event, and the League’s willingness to sign media rights agreements with nontraditional broadcast partners, beginning with Fox Sports in 1994 and later Comcast’s OLN, led to a long-term relationship with NBC Sports and, starting last season, partnerships with ESPN and Turner Sports.

The League announced April 11 that it will appear in Australia for the first time when the Arizona Coyotes and Los Angeles Kings play preseason games at the 2023 NHL Global Series in Melbourne on Sept. 23-24. It will be the NHL’s first attempt at hockey in the Southern Hemisphere and the farthest it has trekked from North America, after playing in Europe and Asia.

Australia represents the fourth continent to host an NHL game. The Coyotes and Kings will play at Rod Laver Arena, home of the Australian Open tennis tournament, on a rink the NHL will construct with many of the same parts used for outdoor games.

Will venturing Down Under be the NHL’s boldest move yet?

“No, how about selling 70,000 tickets in 20 minutes to play outside in the snow, which if it was two degrees warmer would have been rain,” said Bettman, referring to the 2008 Winter Classic featuring the Buffalo Sabres and Pittsburgh Penguins at Ralph Wilson Stadium in Orchard Park, New York. “I don’t view things in terms of this is risky or not. I view it in terms of, ‘Is this an exciting opportunity?’ and ‘Do we think we can do it?’ understanding that not everything you try to do comes off the way you plan to do it.

“I look at what it is that we could do, that we’re not doing, that we could do better and that’s how we move forward. It’s about what can we do to continue to connect with our fans, grow the game, and to make this game as exciting and as entertaining and appealing as anything else you could do with your leisure time.”

Though Sports Business Journal noted the three work stoppages under Bettman, it pointed out the Commissioner delivered “significant victories for the League at the negotiating table.” Those included obtaining long-term cost certainty for owners in 2005 “with the establishment of a salary cap, improvements to the on-ice product and greater parity between the large- and small-market teams.”

Bettman said, “I love the game, and I love everybody associated with the game, and it’s challenging. Every day is different and you’re not just dealing with the issues of the day, you’re trying to focus on what do we need to do to move forward, and we’ve done lots of things to move the game forward.

“Working here and doing what I do is part of the ultimate team effort in the ultimate team sport. And that’s why I think, with everybody working together, why we’ve grown as much as we have.”

NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said the award for Bettman was “a long time coming but very well deserved.”

“I see the leadership qualities he has all the time, so every day I’ve worked with him I’ve seen him in every situation,” Daly said. “In tough times — the pandemic being one of them — some of the work stoppages we’ve been involved in and some of those negotiations, even some of our media negotiations … It’s where he really elevates himself and separates himself from the pack.”

Emmy-winning actor and St. Louis Blues fan Jon Hamm, who introduced Bettman at the ceremony Wednesday, said of the Commissioner, “It’s been nice to get to know him over the course of my fandom, really. And it’s been impressive to see what he’s been able to do just with the League. … I’ve been a fan for pretty much my entire life. The Blues franchise is, I think, 54 years old now or whatever (56) and I’m 52, so it’s a couple years older than me, but I kind of grew up with that franchise. It’s been nice to get to know Gary, and it’s really been nice to get to see what he’s done.”

Also during the ceremony, the NHL won the award for Sports Breakthrough of the Year for its Digitally Enhanced Dasherboards, advertising technology that debuted this season.



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Sail Canada says coach fired because lack of money, not pregnancy



Lisa Ross wants her job back.

The two-time Olympic sailor for Canada was named to the national sailing team’s coaching staff three years ago.

Nine days after telling Sail Canada in March she was pregnant and would take maternity leave later this year, Ross was fired.

Ross was in Andora, Italy, where she’d been coaching Canadian sailors at the European championship. She was about to head to Spain for more competitions and training camps.


The 46-year-old from Mahone Bay, N.S., said during the March 17 video call with Sail Canada’s chief executive officer Don Adams and high-performance director Mike Milner, she was told to pack her bags and return to Canada.

“It was strange and shocking,” Ross told The Canadian Press. “It was a five-minute phone call where I was fired, basically, without cause.

“I was in Europe. I was in the middle of a planned six-week trip.”

Sail Canada said lack of money, and not Ross’s pregnancy, was the reason for her firing.

“Sail Canada terminated Lisa Ross’s contract for financial reasons which had nothing to do with Lisa Ross being pregnant,” the organization said in a statement to The Canadian Press.

“Discussions and the decision to terminate Lisa Ross’s contract took place well before she verbally informed Sail Canada high performance director that she was pregnant.

$80,000 annual salary

Sail Canada said Ross’s salary was supported by Sport Canada Gender Equity funding, which was eliminated at the end of the 2021-2022 fiscal year.

“Sail Canada was able to maintain Lisa Ross’s position in the next fiscal year through the Return to Sport funding program but, unfortunately, that funding is no longer available in 2023-2024,” the organization said.

Ross’s annual salary was $80,000. The federal government renewed its funding for gender equity in sport in October with a commitment of $25.3 million over three years.

“This is not available at present, but we have been informed it may be some time in the future,” Sail Canada said in a statement. “We do not know if female coaching will be part of the areas of funding.

Sail Canada said it made its decision to fire Ross “because of financial reasons based on the information available at the time of budget finalization.”

I would have liked the opportunity, if funding was the issue, to visit any possibility of ensuring I can continue in my role …— Former Sail Canada coach Lisa Ross on her firing

“With the 2023-2024 Olympic season fast approaching, and in order for Sail Canada to prioritize Olympic hopefuls and maintain a balanced budget, Sail Canada has to make drastic cuts to its high-performance budget.”

Sail Canada said it sought a Nova Scotia labour lawyer’s advice on Feb. 21 to vet the decision to dismiss Ross.

Ross departed for Europe at the end of February and had no inkling her job was on the chopping block until she was sacked March 17.

“I just would have liked the opportunity, if funding was the issue, to visit any possibility of ensuring that I can continue in my role as one of the more senior coaches on the staff,” Ross said.

Sail Canada said it waited until after the European championship March 10-17 to fire her “so that it would not become a distraction for the athletes.”

Another female hired on contract basis

Ross was the only woman on Sail Canada’s technical staff of a high-performance director and coaches.

Since her dismissal, Rosie Chapman was hired on a contract basis.

Chapman is partially subsidized by athletes and costs 20 per cent of a full-time salary, Sail Canada said.

Ross competed for Canada in 2004 in Athens in women’s three-person keelboat and 2008 in Beijing in women’s dinghy.

She coached laser sailor Brenda Bowskill at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Ross was named the Canadian sailing team’s development coach in 2020, but she coached the senior men’s laser team that year.

Ross didn’t coach at Tokyo’s Olympics in 2021. She was on maternity leave with her second child.

She was coaching the 49er FX women’s development team when she was fired. Her third child is due Sept. 1.

She’d planned to continue coaching until August when she could no longer fly.

Ross intended to be back with the athletes in time for January’s world championship and to help prepare them for the 2024 Olympics in Paris. She says she communicated that plan to Sail Canada the day she told the organization she was pregnant.

Milner replied that same day: “You should also know Rosie and I have been talking on and off for more than a year on joining our team and I think this is a great opportunity for the girls while you are on mat leave.”

Lawsuit not filed against Sail Canada

Milner also wrote in that email to Ross that his “initial thought” would be to have Chapman become the international coach after April’s Princess Sofia or Hyeres regattas “and focus you on domestic training.”

Ross has filed claims with Nova Scotia’s Labour Standards Board and Human Rights Commission but has not sued Sail Canada.

“I’m not asking for a massive amount of money,” Ross said. “I’m asking for my job back.”

The World Sailing Trust recently launched a half-dozen recommendations under an initiative called Project Juno to “support better maternity policies in sailing.”

While Sail Canada insists her pregnancy did not cost Ross her job, it says the organization has pregnancy and parental leave policy “that is in keeping with the Ontario Employment Standards Act” and subject to Sport Canada’s Athletes Assistance Program policies and procedures.

Ross says she has never seen that policy.

She hasn’t filed a complaint with the Office of the Sport Integrity Commissioner (OSIC), which was established almost a year ago to administer Canadian sport’s universal code of conduct. Sail Canada is a signatory to OSIC.

“I want my job back, so I want to focus on that,” Ross said. “I want to be a part of the sport system that I’ve been a part of since I was 17.

“I went to my first Pan Am Games when I was 17. It’s been a scary process to go through, just even with my relationship with Sail Canada because that’s been a huge part of my life and I want that to continue.”



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Jubilant Latvians given national holiday after shock ice hockey win over USA



Latvians woke up to go to work Monday morning, only to find they didn’t have to. Their parliament had met at midnight to declare a holiday after the national ice hockey team chalked up its best result at the world championship.

Latvia, where hockey is hugely popular, co-hosted the men’s championship with Finland, and the country’s 4-3 overtime victory over the United States for the bronze medal on Sunday was greeted with jubilation.

A plane bringing the team home from Finland flew at low altitude over central Riga on Monday to greet thousands of fans who had gathered to welcome the squad.

At quarter to midnight on Sunday, members of parliament, sporting red-and-white national team jerseys, convened for a 10-minute session to unanimously declare the holiday.


It was “to strengthen the fact of significant success of Latvian athletes in the social memory of the society,” according to the bill’s sponsors.

The bill was introduced by a smiling member of parliament with her face painted in the colors of the national flag. Another giggled while trying to read out the names of absent parliamentarians, to laughter from many in the hall. There was an ovation from everyone present after the final vote.

But as dawn broke, there was confusion about who was working and who was not. Court hearings were canceled and schools and universities were closed, but national exams for high school students went ahead, with staff paid at holiday rates. Several hospitals chose to stay open to honor doctor appointments.

Businesses found themselves in some disarray, with Aigars Rostovskis, the president of the Latvian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, telling public broadcaster LSM: “It will be chaos for many.”

Canada won the gold medal, the team’s record 28th world title, by defeating Germany 5-2 on Sunday.



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Kamloops Blazers rout Peterborough Petes 10-2 in Memorial Cup



KAMLOOPS, British Columbia — Logan Stankoven had a goal and four assists, Connor Levis had a goal and two assists and the Kamloops Blazers routed the Ontario Hockey League champion Peterborough Petes 10-2 in the Memorial Cup on Sunday.

The win came after Kamloops defenseman Kyle Masters was taken off the ice on a stretcher after he was hit and fell backward into the corner boards with less than seven minutes remaining. There was no immediate word on Masters’ condition.

Ryan Michael, Fraser Minten, Ashton Ferster, Matthew Seminoff, Dylan Sydor, Jakub Demek, Matthew Seminoff and Ryan Hofer each scored goals for the Blazers, who bounced back from an 8-3 loss to the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League champion Quebec Remparts on Friday night.


Caedan Bankier and Olen Zellweger also added two assists each for the Blazers, who scored four power-play goals and improved to 1-1 in the four-team, 10-day tournament.

Peterborough dropped to 0-2 and must beat Quebec on Tuesday to advance.



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