Gary Bettman has always been a hockey fan.
The NHL Commissioner appeared on the CBC's The National that aired in part Monday to address a number of issues, including his image and his love for the game.
"I couldn’t do what I do day-in and day-out if I didn’t love the game…," he said. "I was always a fan of the game and I wouldn’t have taken this job if I wasn’t a fan of the game..."
Bettman's adoration for hockey may also be why he thinks NHL realignment is a more fan-friendly system.
He sat down with Hockey Night in Canada Radio on Sirius XM hosts Rob Pizzo and Elliotte Friedman Monday afternoon to talk about why he felt the new two-conference, four-division format is more conducive to ardent supporters of their favourite squads.
"Actually, the No. 1 pro [of the new system]? And this was for the fans as well: Every team [will play in] every building at least once which we hadn’t been doing," he said.
Bettman also cited several teams, including the Detroit Red Wings — who moved to the East from the West — as prime examples of squads who would benefit from a lightened travel schedule. But he also reiterated the importance of their fans getting to watch more games earlier on rather than having to stay up late to see West coast contests.
Fighting part of hockey
He also explained to Mansbridge why he felt fighting was part of professional hockey and may still be around for a while.
“[Fighting] has been, and is, [part of the game], but it’s declining in its frequency," he said. "There is less fighting in the game than we had years ago. I mean we penalize it. It’s part of the fabric [of the game] and it constantly evolves..."
Bettman went on to tell Pizzo and Friedman about the idea of possible expansion from 30 teams to a 32-team league, and left open the possibility that down the road something like that could happen, but cautioned it wasn't anything on the radar.
"I know that there are a number of places that would like to have a team and they’ve expressed that interest," he said. "A lot of it came out of the woodwork when there was speculation the Coyotes were dead in Arizona. So we know there’s a lot of interest there, but we’re not ready to go through a formal expansion process.
"Will we be at some other point in time? Maybe, but it’s not anything I have a stopwatch on."
Click above to listen to the interview in its entirety, and watch Bettman's 1-on-1 with Mansbridge.