Bettman says every team will play all others at least once next year

Updated: May 24, 2008, 8:11 PM ET
Associated Press

DETROIT -- The Pittsburgh Penguins and Detroit Red Wings won't have to wait until the Stanley Cup finals to play next season.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said every team in the league will play all the others at least once next season. The announcement came Saturday before Game 1 of the finals between Pittsburgh and Detroit, two teams that did not meet this regular season.

Bettman also used his annual pre-Cup news conference to say the size of goaltenders' equipment will be analyzed in the offseason.

The commissioner said he hopes changes can be made, but the issue first must make its way through a committee process.

"All goaltenders should be on equal footing," he said, noting scoring is down, goalies are bigger both physically and with the equipment they wear, and he wants more room for skaters to shoot on net.

Bettman's comments came several weeks after it was announced the NHL and its players' union had formed a group to examine the size and configuration of goalie equipment. They will meet June 11 in Toronto.

The idea to have a group examine the issue came about at the general managers' meetings in Naples, Fla., in February, where there was unanimous consent to do something about the size of the equipment.

If the group decides changes to the rules governing goaltenders' equipment are warranted, its recommendations will be forwarded to the league's competition committee for consideration.

"This is going to be the best attempt that can be made to deal with goaltender equipment," Bettman said.

Bettman also waded into the controversy over the Red Wings hosting Game 1 the same night the Detroit Pistons were playing the Boston Celtics at home in Game 3 of the NBA's Eastern Conference finals.

Criticism of the NHL in the matter has been "unrealistic and unfair," Bettman said, citing the NBA's admission that it decides on its conference final schedule far in advance.

"Guess what? They're not the only ones who have to lock things in," he said.

No city until now has hosted a Stanley Cup finals game and an NBA conference finals game on the same day, according to STATS LLC.

NBA spokesman Tim Frank this past week called the scheduling conflict "unbelievably unusual" but said the Eastern Conference finals dates are locked in for nearly a year, taking into consideration TV needs and arena availability.

"It's set up so far in advance," he said. "There's not any flexibility."

In other scheduling news, Bettman said he expects the league to again kick off its regular-season schedule in Europe. And an announcement will be forthcoming on the participants and venue for the second Winter Classic outdoor game.

The Penguins and Sabres played a game in snowy Buffalo on New Year's Day that proved to be a ratings success.


Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press