MIAMI -- Its TV ratings are still minuscule, compared with those of the National Basketball Association and National Football League, and it never may improve its ranking as the fourth-most popular of the four major professional sports. But commissioner Gary Bettman said he doesn't measure the National Hockey League's progress against other sports.
"The league is at its most stable, from a team standpoint and ownership standpoint, at least in my tenure," Bettman said yesterday. "The issue is not whether or not we're in a horse race and whether our ratings are better than the other three major professional sports on TV. The issue is, are we growing? In five years we can look at it again, and if we continue to grow the way we are, I'll be happy.
"If we're maximizing the interest in the game and the fan base, it doesn't matter if we're catching anybody else. As long as we continue to move in the right direction, that's what we want."
That direction will include expansion at an unspecified date. Bettman also said that, although the final series involves teams in Denver and Miami, the success of the Avalanche and Panthers will help the NHL spread the game's gospel.
$ Florida vs. Colorado
(Colorado leads series, 3-0)
Day .... .... Site/result .... TV
Game 1 ...... Colorado, 3-1
Game 2 ...... Colorado, 8-1
Game 3 ...... Colorado, 3-2
Yester. ..... at Florida
Thurs.* ..... at Colo. ..... ESPN
Satur.* ..... at Florida ... ESPN
June 17* .... at Colorado ... 45, 5
Note: All games start at 8 p.m.
Pub Date: 6/11/96