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Bettman pleased with new rule

As temporary fixes go, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman is satisfied his league has found a workable solution to the problem of blindside head shots.

In a rule made effective Thursday, players are now subject to supplemental discipline for hits to the head and hits from behind even if they are not penalized in the game.

"We believe that this rule is very strong, very targeted, very specific," Bettman said during a news conference Friday in HSBC Arena. "That's why we believe it will work, will be enforceable and won't reduce the physicality of the game."

Bettman, the guest speaker earlier in the day at the Sabres' Power Play Luncheon, said the league fast-tracked the change when Pittsburgh's Matt Cooke could not be suspended under the rules for his recent hit that knocked out Boston's Marc Savard for the season.

"I hated that hit as I think most people did but that was the hole in the rules that had to be addressed," he said. "It focused people exactly on what needed to be done."

Bettman took issue with the notion the league was confrontational with the players union over the change, as Sabres goalie and competition committee member Ryan Miller said this week in interviews in Buffalo and on Toronto radio.

"We felt this was something we just couldn't sit back on if the union was having procedural difficulties where they couldn't deal with it," Bettman said. "Ultimately, the players stepped up and dealt with it."

On other topics:

Bettman said the league is still pursuing local ownership in Phoenix and joked "maybe we should be" in the business of running a team because it's doing well in the standings and crowds are returning.

Bettman said he remains concerned about the decaying Nassau Coliseum and added that New York Islanders owner Charles Wang needs a new arena to be competitive or will have to pursue other options.

Said Bettman, "That team is not staying in that building a minute longer than it has to."

Bettman said he didn't expect much deviation in the salary cap next season, perhaps only by 1 or 2 percent either way from this year's $56.7 million.

e-mail: mharrington@buffnews.com

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