‘I can’t do it forever, but I’m enjoying the run’

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said he doesn’t anticipate stepping down from the job he’s held for three decades anytime soon.

“If I wake up in the morning and I’m not excited about what I’ve got to do and what lays ahead of me for that day, I shouldn’t be doing this anymore,” Bettman said during an appearance Tuesday on the Merchant and Ourand sports media podcast.

Bettman, who turns 70 on June 2, has been commissioner of the NHL since Feb. 1, 1993. When asked on the podcast what criteria would have to be met for him to want to step down, he said he needs two things to be successful: the continued support of the league’s owners and good health to foster the “energy and the desire and the passion” for the game.

He cited his recent week as an indication he still has that energy and passion: He went from Carolina to Montreal for Guy Lafleur’s funeral, to Calgary to Edmonton to South Florida to Tampa, finishing up on Tuesday in New York for meetings after getting back at 4 am

“Even when I was in my 20s, that would be a pretty good trek,” he said. “When I can’t do that anymore because I don’t feel physically or mentally up to it, (if) it doesn’t excite me to be at games…

“(I)t’s about the game, it’s about how I feel about the game and my connection to it that will determine how long I do it. Obviously, I can’t do it forever. But I’m enjoying the run.”

The league’s recent success includes the integration of gambling, which Bettman was at first resistant to.

“What gambling represents, and it’s no secret that I’ve had to be a contortionist on the subject because I was opposed to it for a variety of reasons, which we’re now satisfying. But at the end of the day, this is another connection point for fans and maybe for people who aren’t fans who will become fans,” said Bettman, who liked betting to digitally enhanced dasher boards and customized viewing options in terms of fan engagement.

“So, this is just another way we’re giving fans what they want, when they want and how they want it.”

Bettman’s objections to integrating gambling were somewhat assured by the teams being properly compensated by “sports betting entities” for the league’s “content.” He added he has no concerns about the influence gambling could have on the league’s players.

“I don’t worry about the integrity of our players, and you do all the things to monitor that you need to, but our players are the consumer professionals,” he said.

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