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Gary Bettman On WFAN: State Of The NHL In New York Market Is Tremendous

NEW YORK (WFAN) -- Gary Bettman is as thrilled about the success of the New York City area hockey teams as their fans are.

The NHL commissioner, who was an in-studio guest with WFAN's Mike Francesa on Thursday, said the state of the league is very good, but he's even more impressed by what the Islanders and Rangers have achieved so far this season.

"If you are a hockey fan in New York, I think if the playoffs started tonight you'd see the Islanders playing the Rangers. It's very exciting," Bettman said.

The Islanders entered play Thursday in first place in the Metropolitan Division and in second place in the Eastern Conference, while the Rangers, who reached the Stanley Cup Final last season, are in seventh place in the conference, eight points clear of ninth-place Florida.

Bettman said the renaissance the Isles are enjoying is a testament to the two men who took the most heat during what were mostly dark years prior to this season.

"I know winning has always been important to Charles Wang. They've built a team, it took time, but, apparently, they've done it the right way. It's a testament to Garth Snow, ultimately, and he's had his critics, perhaps somewhat unfairly when you look at where things stand," Bettman said.

When it comes to the Islanders' impending move to Brooklyn, Bettman tried to put some nagging rumors to rest.

Francesa asked the commissioner to comment on reports that have suggested the Islanders can at some point break their supposed 25-year "iron-clad" lease with Barclays Center, where they will begin play next season following a 43-year run at Nassau Coliseum.

"Whatever agreement Charles Wang made has been assumed in full. (It's) not based on a change in ownership. I know (new minority owner) Scott Malkin is very excited about playing at Barclays," Bettman said.

Bettman spoke about many other topics during the wide-ranging interview, including NHL participation in the next Winter Olympics, the impending arrival of Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel, who are expected to be the first two picks in this summer's draft, the league and technology, head injuries and the potential for expansion. To hear the complete interview, please click the audio link below.

Gary Bettman

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