This is a partial transcript from "Your World with Neil Cavuto," July 27, 2005, that was edited for clarity.
NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: You know, I joked with him off-air that he has got to the most second-guessed guy on the planet right now, with the president probably being the first. He is loved and hated by millionaires and even a lot of hockey fans. I'm talking about the guy at the helm of the most embattled major league sport in the world. But will the fans and sponsors welcome back and watch professional hockey (search) after a year-long strike?
Let us ask the NHL commissioner, Gary Bettman (search).
Mr. Bettman, good to have you.
GARY BETTMAN, COMMISSIONER, NATIONAL HOCKEY LEAGUE: Good to be here. Formerly embattled. We have now put that behind us.
CAVUTO: I don't buy that. I think you are still embattled.
BETTMAN: No, to the contrary. We now get to embark on a great opportunity.
We have a new collective bargaining agreement that is the basis of a strong foundation for a game that had troubled franchises and had competitive imbalance. And what we now have is a partnership which is win-win for everyone.
CAVUTO: Yes. But, I mean, you got that because the players caved, essentially, right?
CAVUTO: They took a big 20-plus percent pay cut, right?
BETTMAN: Well, you know, if you look back over the last 10 years, the system didn't work and we were overpaying. What we've had, really, is a market correction. And now we have the basis to move forward together, working together to grow the game.
CAVUTO: But, you know, what happened in the interim, as you know, Gary, is that the ratings replacements did better than hockey. I mean, college basketball was wiping you out.
BETTMAN: You know, that is a good rhetoric from a former cable partner, maybe a future cable partner.
CAVUTO: It's not rhetoric. It was the case.
BETTMAN: Well, except, comparing a 1,230-game regular season with an occasional event that you plug in at certain times is not a fair comparison. The fact of the matter is, we are coming off four seasons in a row of record attendance of over 20 million people.
CAVUTO: So, why couldn't you get a TV contract?
BETTMAN: Well, we will have one. I am not the least bit concerned.
CAVUTO: But my fear is that you could not get one because people are bored. That they don't like hockey. There are a couple of rabid fans in and around the New York and Canada. They go nuts about it. But it ain't football and it ain't baseball. And it ain't registering.
BETTMAN: Well, it may not be football, but that doesn't mean it can't be really good, with great fans.
We have the most connected fans in all of sports. We have a fan base that understood exactly what we were going through and why and demanded...
CAVUTO: And you think they'll return in October?
CAVUTO: Much as fans returned to baseball?
BETTMAN: You know, we don't take our fans for granted.
BETTMAN: We think that what we're now delivering, with the rule changes, with an economic structure that really makes sense for everybody, especially the fans, that our fans will come back because there's pent-up demand...
CAVUTO: Well, you know, Gary, I have heard from some of those fans.
CAVUTO: And they knew I was going to talk you too. And they're ticked. They have already discovered that a lot of their season ticket passes and all that are going to be a lot higher and that they're going to pay a lot more. And they read about corporate discounts and all that. They think they're getting screwed.
BETTMAN: I don't think that's the predominant view.
Fifteen of our clubs, I believe, have lowered their ticket prices.
CAVUTO: For individuals?
BETTMAN: For everybody who is a season ticket holder, OK?
BETTMAN: Which is the core fan base that we have.
And many of our clubs, most of our clubs are doing promotions for our fans. The Rangers, a few blocks from here the other day at Madison Square Garden (search), had a promotion. And people were lined up around the block because they were giving away free tickets.
CAVUTO: Well, they're nuts, the Rangers fans. God bless them.
BETTMAN: You're one, I understand.
CAVUTO: But let me ask you this. Now, you have got a situation here where you want to see more scoring in the game.
CAVUTO: Right? So, you have changed your rules to allow for that. Is that what's going to make the difference?
BETTMAN: Well, two things are going to make the difference.
One is, we come out of a situation where we were economically unstable and what was going on off the ice was clearly a distraction. We have now been able to have an economic system where all of our clubs can be healthy.
BETTMAN: Certainly break even, make money.
Two, all of our teams can now be competitive. We're not going to have teams with $20 million payrolls competing with teams with $80 million payrolls.
CAVUTO: What about shorting the season, cutting the number of games?
BETTMAN: We don't need to do that. Our fans tell us...
CAVUTO: But you are playing in July, right?
BETTMAN: No, we don't play in July.
CAVUTO: The season goes from October to June or July or something?
BETTMAN: The Stanley Cup Finals (search) get played in mid-June.
CAVUTO: Really? There is not snow anywhere at that time.
BETTMAN: We play in air-conditioned arenas.
BETTMAN: The ice actually works in these arenas even when it's warm out.
CAVUTO: All right.
All right, Gary Bettman, we wish you well. A lot of the hockey fans are wishing you well.
BETTMAN: Thank you.
CAVUTO: They hope to see it work. We'll see. He's the NHL commissioner, Gary Bettman.
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