The National Hockey League was created in November 1917 at the Windsor Hotel in Montréal. Made up of four teams, including two from Montréal, the NHL went through a constant evolution until the mid-1960s before undergoing dramatic changes in the last 30 years of its centenary.
Given that the Chamber of Commerce of Metropolitan Montreal is about to celebrate its 200th anniversary, it is very likely that Chamber representatives were in the room when the league was formed. Therefore, in honour of this hockey milestone, the Chamber invited NHL leaders to come speak to over 500 people from Montréal’s business community about the league’s vision for the future.
Here are three highlights from the NHL’s visit to the Chamber’s forum on November 17.
Proud of his record
Nothing gives Gary Bettman more pride in his role as NHL Commissioner than to award the Stanley Cup to the winning team after the playoffs each spring. Mr. Bettman is very satisfied with his almost 25 years at the head of the NHL. Given the growth of the league, he has good reason to be. When he arrived in February 1993, team revenues were $430 million. This year, he says, they will hit $4.5 billion. And players have seen big increases too: the average yearly salary was $300,000 in 1993 and is now $3 million.
Gary Bettman is particularly happy with the game, which he says appeals to fans and shows a true competitive spirit on the ice. He said that passionate club owners have also spent the past 25 years helping him grow the sport in North America and around the world.
The future of hockey in Québec City
The topic of the league expansion is inevitable whenever Gary Bettman is in Quebec. With this season's addition of the Vegas Golden Knights, the NHL now has 31 franchises—16 in the Eastern Conference and 15 in the Western Conference—, and all eyes are on what will become the NHL’s 32nd team. A few days before the Chamber’s business luncheon, Houston threw its hat into the ring alongside Québec City and Seattle.
Although no expansion is planned for the short term, the NHL Commissioner did give some hope to Nordiques fans, as the next expansion decision will not be based on keeping a balance between the Eastern and Western Conferences.
Geoff Molson, Owner, President and CEO of the Club de Hockey Canadien, who was on stage with Mr. Bettman, expressed his support for a franchise to return to Québec City. He gave the example of two other NHL teams that are geographically close and that are both successful.
How Marc Bergevin is sleeping these days, plus Dale Tallon’s many jokes
Three NHL general managers—Marc Bergevin from the Montréal Canadiens, Dale Tallon from the Florida Panthers, and Ken Holland from the Detroit Red Wings—also took part in a panel discussion.
The night before this activity for the NHL’s 100th anniversary, the Canadiens lost 5 to 4 to the Arizona Coyotes, the 31st and last team in the league. Marc Bergevin said that Montréal is a demanding market and that he has trouble falling asleep some nights more than others, giving the previous night as an example. In response, his fellow general manager Dale Tallon joked that he wouldn’t trade places with Mr. Bergevin, as there were more people at the Chamber’s activity that day than there are at some Panthers’ games. This was one of the many times that Mr. Tallon had the crowd laughing.