COMMISSIONER BETTMAN: Good evening, everyone. Welcome to the Stanley Cup Final. This is the culmination of what has been an incredibly exciting, entertaining and compelling playoff season. But before we begin this evening, on this and every Memorial Day, we honor the memories of the brave men and women who gave their lives to the service of their country. It hardly seems like a year has passed since we were here together at the start of the 2016 Stanley Cup Final. Time certainly flies. Since that day, last May 30th, we’ve conducted a World Cup of Hockey, a number of outdoor games, our All-Star Centennial celebrations, and we named our 100 Greatest Players. Congratulations to the Eastern Conference champions Pittsburgh Penguins, and Ron Burkle, Mario Lemieux, and their partners, and also general manager Jim Rutherford, who is seeking his third career Stanley Cup and is the only modern-era GM to win the Stanley Cup with two different teams. The Penguins seek to become our first repeat Stanley Cup champions since the Detroit Red Wings of ‘97 and ‘98. Next Monday, June 5th, the Penguins will celebrate the 50th anniversary of being granted their NHL franchise. Congratulations, as well, to the Western Conference champion Nashville Predators and Tom Cigarran, Herb Fritch and their partners.
The Predators earned the spot in their first Stanley Cup Final by getting game-winning goals from 10 different players. The third No. 8 seed to reach the Final since 1994, Nashville received its NHL franchise on June 25th, 1997. Just under 20 years later, here are the Predators, a team built by the only general manager they’ve ever had, David Poile. This is a team that has thoroughly been embraced by the city of Nashville, a team that has become an incredible part of the community, and one that has created some of its own truly special hockey traditions, as all of you who have been there know. Pittsburgh and Nashville are separated by only 560 miles on the map. Penguins coach Mike Sullivan and Predators coach Peter Laviolette were born in even closer proximity.
Their Massachusetts hometowns of Marshfield and Franklin, respectively, are situated barely an hour apart from one another. Mike and Peter are the first U.S.-born coaches to oppose each other in a Stanley Cup Final. The teams they coached are a telling illustration of our league’s competitive balance in that 17 points is the difference between Pittsburgh’s second-place overall finish and Nashville’s 16th-place overall finish. The competitive closeness that marks our regular season has continued through these remarkable playoffs. The 81 playoff games to date have seen 27 overtimes, 50 one-goal decisions, and 10 more in which a one-goal game became a two-goal game through an empty net score. The games score has been within a goal 80% of the total playing time. There have also been 32 comeback victories, including 14 contests won by teams that overcame deficits of two goals or more.
The three times a team gave up as many as seven goals in a game and lost, that team rebounded to win the following game. Of the 14 best of seven series played in these 2017 playoffs, 10 have gone at least six games. Again, a testament to the competitiveness of our League, and obviously a double overtime Game 7 decided the Eastern Conference Championship and brings us all back to Pittsburgh tonight. The media audience engagement with that game was tremendous. On NBC SportsNet here in Pittsburgh, the game did a 29.7 rating and a 47 share, while becoming NBC SportsNet’s most streamed game in NHL history, with 24.7 million live minutes. Game 7 was also NBC SportsNet’s most-watched NHL game ever when the matchup involved a Canadian team. We are proud and grateful for the great coverage and production that NBC provides for us — not just in the playoffs but all year long.
In Canada, Game 7 was the most watched game of the playoffs, as an average of 4.29 million Canadians tuned into SportsNet and the CBC. Overall, 11 million Canadians watched some part of the game. Speaking of Rogers, we are thrilled that our longterm relationship resulted in Rogers being responsible for the number one television program in Canada for virtually every day of the past six weeks. In our League, it is so difficult to win consistently during the regular season, and as our two finalists have shown, it is no easy task to win 12 times in the playoffs. Now, four more victories stand between these teams and the Stanley Cup – the Stanley Cup that will be won during the NHL’s hundredth year, our centennial celebration, the Stanley Cup that will be won during the year that we celebrate the 125th anniversary of the Cup’s donation by Lord Stanley.
There’s one blank panel on the Cup’s current bottom ring, and the names that will be engraved on that panel will join the 2,528 names already in place – an honor roll unlike any other in sports.In facing the Chicago Blackhawks, the Anaheim Ducks, and now the Penguins, the Predators, during these playoffs will have played the winners of six of the past 10 Stanley Cups. The Penguins, meanwhile, defeated a 108-point opponent in Columbus, and then defeated a 118- point opponent, the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Washington Capitals, prior to the Conference Final victory over Ottawa. As exciting as it’s been to see the first three rounds of these playoffs, we are really excited about what is to unfold. A season that began with the international intensity of the World Cup of Hockey concludes now with the ultimate in playoff drama. There’s much more activity for all of us, especially our fans, to anticipate. From this Final, we head to Las Vegas – where on June 21, we will conduct a unique event that will combine the 2017 NHL Awards, and the Vegas Golden Knights expansion draft. We will also unveil the Adidas uniforms for all 31 clubs.
Then it’s off to Chicago for the Draft on June 23rd and 24th at the United Center, the first time we will be conducting our Draft in the city of Chicago. The Draft will be accompanied by a FanFest and the centennial truck tour. Also during that week we will announce our schedule for the 2017-18 season, which includes an array of highlights, including during the ‘17-18 pre-season, the NHL, our teams, our players and our partners will launch our long-term commitment to building hockey in China with the 2017 NHL China Games, which will be presented by O.R.G. Packaging.
Those games will be in Shanghai and Beijing. The Vancouver Canucks and the Los Angeles Kings will play two pre-season games, one on September 21st and the other on September 23rd. The following week, in collaboration with our partner, Kraft, we will continue our Kraft Hockeyville grassroots initiatives with a pre-season game between the St. Louis Blues and the Penguins in Belle Vernon, Pennsylvania, on September 24th, and a game between the New Jersey Devils and the Ottawa Senators in O’Leary, Prince Edward Island on September 25th