NHL commissioner Gary Bettman told Hockey Night in Canada on Saturday that league revenues are healthy even after taking into account the strength of the Canadian dollar.
The Toronto Star, citing an internal league communique, reported this week that Canadian teams accounted for 31 per cent of league ticket revenue, pegged at $1.1 billion US.
Bettman told interviewer Ron McLean before Game 4 of the Stanley Cup final in Pittsburgh that interest in Canada is helping drive revenue but that it was partly a reflection of market forces and not cause for concern.
"It's a little disproportionate and I think that may be a good thing, because if you go back seven or eight years ago when people were saying we'd only have one club left from Canada, the revenues were disproportionate the other way," said Bettman.
"What it means is we've done a very good job of getting the Canadian clubs healthy. Frankly revenues are growing across the board — it isn't just the Canadian dollar and it isn't just the Canadian clubs and any suggestion to the contrary is somebody trying to get a headline."
"What that tells you is we stick by situations and make them work," he added.
In the Toronto Star report, an anonymous NHL club executive based in the United States told the newspaper that revenue growth since the 2005 lockout would be only two per cent for the American clubs. Bettman said the true figure was closer to eight per cent.
Bettman said that while certain clubs in the U.S. may have "issues," none was in jeopardy, as Pittsburgh and Nashville have been in recent years.
Regarding the sale of the Predators last year, Bettman re-iterated that the Canadian Competition Bureau investigated and found the NHL had not engaged in any anti-competitive behaviour after a letter of intent was signed to sell the club to Ontario-based executive Jim Balsillie.
Negotiations with Balsillie broke down, and then-owner Craig Leipold eventually sold the club to a consortium of Tennessee businessmen and others, including William "Boots" Del Biaggio.
The Nashville conversation came up in light of news this week that Del Biaggio is being sued by an investment firm that alleges he engaged in fraud to secure a multimillion-dollar loan. The San Jose Mercury News reported that he was also being investigated by U.S. federal authorities.
Del Biaggio, who once had a stake in the San Jose Sharks and lobbied to try to bring an NHL club to Kansas City before the Nashville deal, resigned on Monday from the investment firm he co-founded over a decade ago.
Bettman stressed that Del Biaggio was a minority owner of the Predators and that the club would not be adversely affected regardless of the outcome of the investigation.