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Bettman pleased with NHL revenue, officials

Looking at the numbers, it appears the NHL bounced back, fan-wise, after the lockout. AP Photo/Alex Brandon

CHICAGO -- Although the salary cap will go down next season to $64.3 million, the league looks to be positioning itself well for a return to pre-lockout revenue totals.

The 48-game, lockout-shortened season played to 97 percent capacity during the regular season, and more than 100 percent capacity during the playoffs, Bettman said.

As for revenues, the NHL is projecting higher than a straight percentage of the games played during the truncated season that began Jan. 19.

“We played 58 percent of our season but we did better than 58 percent of our revenues, we believe," Bettman said. "It’s not done yet, and there’s still some more revenues to be generated over the next couple of weeks. But we believe we did better than a strict percentage would have you think."

Bettman defended his officials, whose standards for calling fouls in the playoffs have come under attack from different quarters this spring.

“The officials in this league are the best in the world, I believe, not just in hockey but in any sport," Bettman said. "I believe they have the most difficult job, and it always seems to undergo even more intense scrutiny this time of year.

“This is a game of errors. Coaches make them. Players make them. And occasionally the officials make them. We constantly critique, supervise and coach them. They’re held accountable for their performance.

“The officiating has been consistent. Whether or not I am pleased with it isn’t the point. We’re constantly trying to make it better but it involves a human element.”

INTERNATIONAL DISCUSSIONS

The NHL and the players’ union continue their discussion with the International Olympic Committee and international ice hockey bodies regarding the NHL’s participation in the 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia, next winter. And while it has taken longer than anyone had imagined, it is moving forward.

Bettman said the players’ association likely has more “open issues than we do” but that “until it’s all done, it isn’t done.”

The slow pace of those discussions has delayed the release of the NHL’s 2013-14 schedule, and it has also delayed other discussions regarding the NHL’s international schedule -- including a return of the World Cup of Hockey, something both the league and the NHLPA are hoping to see return to a regular rotation. (This likely would be every four years, giving us a World Cup or Olympics every two years.)

The NHL and players’ association will also discuss whether to return to the Premiere Games series of regular-season games played in Europe, along with exhibition games with European clubs, once the Olympic issue is resolved.

NAME GAME

The NHL will reveal the names it has chosen for its new four-division realignment that will go into effect next season likely some time before the schedule for next season is released and the schedule is likely to be released in July. Of course, the process of realignment could need some tinkering pending what happens with the Coyotes’ sale.