Bettman discusses playoffs, Kings, Classic

LOS ANGELES -- Conspiracies, the resurgence of the Kings and a Winter Classic in Los Angeles were the topics of conversation with NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman at Staples Center less than an hour before the Kings hosted the Vancouver Canucks in Game 4 of their Western Conference Quarterfinal series Wednesday night.

Conspiracy theorists will have you believe the NHL is out to get the Vancouver Canucks after a lengthy video review in Toronto overturned an apparent Daniel Sedin goal in Game 3. Bettman scoffed at those notions and said there's no foul play involved at the Toronto offices or at any other level of the League.

"It was determined it was kicked in," Bettman said of the ruling. When asked about the seven-minute review, he added, "When they do video replay, they want to make sure they get it right. It should take as long as it takes them to get it right. I'd rather that than say you've got a minute and 30 seconds and get it wrong.

"Let's get something straight -- I have complete confidence in the integrity and professionalism and judgment of my hockey operations department. Period.

"I think this whole tact of innuendo and insinuation is both insulting and pure fantasy."

Do the Canucks players believe in these conspiracy theories?

"Oh yeah, definitely," forward Mikael Samuelsson said jokingly. On a more serious note, he added, "No, absolutely not. I think that's a weird way to look at it  That's an easy excuse. We got some calls sometimes, sometimes we don't get the calls. You have to fight through that."

Bettman was in Los Angeles to check out the downtown area in advance of the 2010 Entry Draft, which will be held at Staples Center. The rebuilt zone around Staples Center -- known as LA Live -- has breathed new life into the city and has turned a dilapidated area into a thriving business zone that tourists can enjoy.

It's also nice to have a thriving team like the Kings -- taking part in the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2002 -- finally having success.

"We want all of our teams to be successful," Bettman said. "We want all of our buildings to be full. Teams at some point or another go through down periods. And whatever team is going through a down period, it's nice to see for their fans, not for the League, but for their fans and organization to see them have some success.

"That's my view universally for all 30 franchises. And for various teams at various points in time, there will be success and for other teams there won't be. But it comes over time and depending on how well a team is run, that's how you'll see the success.

Bettman paid tribute to the team's ownership.

"I think what stands out about this franchise right now, and this is a historical perspective, is the Kings as an organization and a team and the fans of Los Angeles have been very fortunate that Phil Anschutz has owned this franchise since the mid-90s," he said. "That emanates in a whole host in the ways.

"One, there's been economic stability. There's no ownership issues at all. Phil has stood behind this franchise every step of the way. I know because he tends to be very private, people confuse that with his interest. I tell you he's very passionate about this team and he wants it to be successful because he's someone who's used to having success in his businesses. I think what they've done to transform downtown Los Angeles is incredible."

All that success and the revived downtown area have some people thinking that Los Angeles could be a possible host site for a future Winter Classic. Of course, the warm California sun, even on New Year's Day, could make that difficult.

"I don't know how to handicap it, because I never assumed that anybody was serious or there would really be an opportunity to do it," Bettman said of holding the Winter Classic in Los Angeles. Of the weather, he said, "I think that's an important issue. Could you put out a sheet of ice and make ice? The answer's probably yes -- but would it be satisfactory for a competitive game, one that counts in the standings? I mean, we take two teams and put them outdoors  but the points in that game matter. And when you look at the way our regular season ended, we have to make sure all of our games are played under as close to ideal conditions as possible.

"And so I'm not interested in doing something where we're putting the player at risk or the game at risk by having ice that really isn't up to NHL standards. If in fact there is really genuine interest being expressed to me by the club, if that's the case then we'll study it to see if it's feasible."

Bettman also touched on the possible effect the 2010 Winter Olympics have had on overall ratings for the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

"We're in the process of studying that," he said. "I think there's probably some element to the success we're seeing in this part of the season from the Olympics. But I also think it's some element of what you're seeing in terms of ratings bumps, attendance and everything else is a function of what's going on on the ice every night. The end of the regular season was spectacular and these playoffs are off to an amazing start."