NEW YORK (AP) There is usually another guest at the table when Gary Bettman and his wife John Moore Jersey Womens , Shelli, go out to dinner with other couples during the NHL playoffs.Friends come to accept the glow of the TV screen set up so Bettman can keep an eye on games, ready to go from enjoying a nice meal to running a multibillion-dollar business and back again. The commissioner of a storied league with 24 teams in the United States and seven in Canada doesn’t put work on hold for life or vice versa. When his 11-year-old grandson, Matthew, wanted to hang out with him in Tampa during All-Star weekend, he brought him along for meetings.”They all blend together because I’m never off,” Bettman said. ”It’s all part of what I do and who I am.”For 25 years, Bettman has overseen the growth of the NHL from $437 million in annual revenue to nearly $5 billion, guiding the league into and out of work stoppages and expanding hockey’s reach to places that never seemed a fit for the fastest game on ice.The Stanley Cup Final opens Monday in Las Vegas, where Bettman had a guiding hand in the expansion process that yielded the Golden Knights and led to the most successful inaugural season in league history. When he was there in November 2016 for the unveiling of the team name, Bettman was booed by the crowd and could not have cared less.”No, no, keep the booing,” he told the crowd. ”That proves you’re now an NHL city.”Once perhaps an unlikely leader for a game with its roots north of the border, the 65-year-old lawyer from Queens who got his start in the NBA has become one of the most powerful and long-lasting influences in professional sports. More than two decades into the job, Bettman still feels energized by the thrill of work – and the sugar supplied by dark chocolate Milky Way candy bars doesn’t hurt.He isn’t going anywhere, either.”I think he’s the best that we could do,” said Jeremy Jacobs, the Boston Bruins owner and board of governors chairman. ”I mean, there are things that might irritate you from time to time about him. But you know where his heart and soul is, he’s always interested in the game Chris Wagner Jersey Womens , the improvement of the game.”It hasn’t always been pretty. Bettman has had a role in three lockouts, the relocation of five franchises, has repeatedly denied any link between head injuries and the degenerative brain disease CTE, and recently refused to allow NHL players to go to the Olympics after doing so five times. Confident in his decisions and willing to accept the ramifications to his reputation and legacy, Bettman has earned respect – sometimes begrudged – and made some enemies while serving longer than the other three major sports commissioners combined.”He’s a force, so he’s not going to roll over because somebody thinks it’s a good idea,” said John Collins, a former NHL chief operating officer. ”He’s very principled and he sticks up for his principles. And those principles could be business principles or they could be just kind of moral principles and he’ll fight for that. That’s the way he lives his life, and that’s the way he runs the league.”Part of Bettman’s work involves keeping 31 ownership groups and markets on the same page. Former Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment President and CEO Richard Peddie said Bettman bringing almost every owner into the league has its benefits.”They’re all there because Gary ultimately blessed them, so I think they always have some kind of IOUs,” Peddie said. ”I don’t mean that in a disingenuous or unfair way. But he was the gatekeeper, so he has that going for him.”Bettman, who was NBA general counsel under then-Commissioner David Stern and a senior vice president before starting at the NHL on Feb. 1, 1993, orchestrates things in such a way that there’s rarely public dissent. Washington Capitals owner Ted Leonsis has watched how Bettman builds a united front among owners.”He’ll pre-brief and sell some of the key owners, if you will, and he backchannels and he’ll literally call and brief every owner personally on a subject so that when you come to the meeting, you’re briefed, you’ve asked your questions,” Leonsis said. ”Because he puts in the work and he has the data and his competence is not questioned in any way and he does have the data, he’s able to land the planes Alex Galchenyuk Jersey Womens , if you will, with efficiency.”Bettman acknowledges some events during his tenure were not of his making. To this day, he insists moving the Quebec Nordiques to Colorado and the original Winnipeg Jets to Arizona had to be done, and that the 2004-05 lockout that wiped out an entire season was necessary to ensure the long-term health of the league.”There are things I wish might not have happened,” Bettman said. ”Work stoppages are a good example. The fact is I knew what we needed, and we had to get it. And if it took a long time to ultimately convince the Players’ Association that this was in everybody’s best interest, I wish it could’ve happened sooner, but it didn’t.”There are some in hockey who can’t forgive Bettman for the lockouts, most recently one in 2012-13. There are others like Peddie who’d rather consider them part of an entire body of work that includes overseeing expansion into the Sun Belt.”It’s putting hockey where it hasn’t traditionally been,” deputy commissioner Bill Daly said. ”That’s proven successful. … I think his legacy of having franchises there and putting hockey in nontraditional markets and making it relevant in nontraditional markets kind of exceeds the business success of the teams.”The deaths of enforcers Derek Boogaard and Bob Probert brought CTE and hockey to the forefront, and the NHL is currently facing a federal lawsuit from more than 100 former players who allege it had the resources to better prevent head trauma, failed to properly warn players of such risks and promoted violent play. In a July 31, 2015, deposition, Bettman said: ”There’s no medical or scientific certainty that concussions lead to CTE.”Bettman said the NHL was a leader on concussion studies, testing and solutions as far back as the 1990s. He also said he believes the lawsuit has no merit.”People can embrace that position, understand it, dismiss it – that’ll be individual opinions,” he said. ”But I have to do what I have to do on behalf of the game, and it starts with player safety being a priority.”Bettman is paid more than $9 million annually and with that is willing to take the brunt of responsibility for the NHL’s good, bad and ugly. He doesn’t have too many fans at the Players’ Association Carter Rowney Jersey Womens , but owners line up behind him based on his work in raising franchise values, negotiating U.S. and Canadian TV deals and steering the sport through trouble.”I think the league is lucky to have had him as long as they’ve had,” said Collins, who worked under Bettman for nine years. ”That role for any sport is a really tough one and it’s really tough when you’re in it for a long time because it’s inevitable that you collect a lot of dents.”The dents don’t keep Bettman up at night, but he works so much that he’ll sleep at most 6 hours on the weekend and often much less. When he returned home at 2 a.m. from a playoff game this spring, he walked 13-year-old golden doodle Lola and 4-year-old Teddy before bed, slept under three hours and postponed working out with a trainer to leave the house at 6:15 for an 8 a.m. television appearance.”I don’t get a lot of sleep and I don’t need a lot of sleep,” Bettman said in his office overlooking Sixth Avenue that has a table-top hockey game, books of the sport’s history and plenty of family photos. ”There are probably certain days where people in my family will think I have narcolepsy, because if I sit down I might fall asleep for five or 10 minutes. But what I do is energizing, so that keeps me going. And I eat a lot of candy.”Bettman and Daly spent two hours earlier this week poring over a draft of the 2018-19 schedule while having Chinese food for lunch – a less glamorous part of the job than handing out the Stanley Cup each June but part of the gig.So is planning for the future, even though Bettman is under contract through 2022 and shows no signs of slowing down. Daly, who’s 54, thinks Bettman will work long enough that owners should look to someone younger as the next commissioner, but his boss is more than comfortable handing him the reins if anything went wrong.”What if God forbid I get hit by a bus?” Bettman said. ”Well, I’ve built an organization that, if need be, I’d hope they’d miss me somewhat, but if need be could carry on.”— WINNIPEG, Manitoba — If there was a trophy for most assists in a season, Blake Wheeler would be one of the early favorites to hoist it at the end of the season. The Winnipeg Jets captain had a five-point night in a 5-2 win over the Colorado Avalanche on Friday at Bell MTS Place Luke Schenn Jersey Womens , setting up the first four goals and scoring the last into an empty net.That performance gave Wheeler 18 assists in 15 games, the second-highest assist total in the league behind Colorado’s Mikko Rantanen, who had 19. Wheeler led the NHL in assists last season with 68 and has more than any other player since the start of the 2015-16 season.Article continues below ...Wheeler hopes to continue his leading ways when the Jets host the New Jersey Devils on Sunday night. The Devils come to town on the heels of a 6-1 shellacking from the Toronto Maple Leafs on Friday and have lost five of their last six, being outscored 29-15 in the process. Winnipeg is the last stop on a season-high seven-game road trip.At the same time as Wheeler is catching fire, sniper Patrik Laine appears to have regained his scoring touch for the Jets. He notched his fifth goal in three games on Friday to take the team lead with eight. He has just three goals in his first 12 games.Defenseman Josh Morrissey, who had one assist against Colorado, had an idea Wheeler was ready for a big night after sharing a ride to the rink with him. “You could tell he was ready to go. He’s a big guy that has so much skill and competes so hard,” he said. “Blake took it to another level. He’s a guy that drives our bus every single day in practice, in the gym and basically in every aspect of being a professional hockey player. He’s the guy that we follow.”The Devils will need better goaltending if they want to compete with the Jets. Goalie Keith Kincaid stopped a number of excellent scoring opportunities by the Leafs but gave up one floater to Morgan Rielly while being screened by three of his teammates.In the previous game, a 7-3 loss against the Ottawa Senators, veteran Corey Schneider was pulled after giving up four goals on 22 shots.“We’ll be fine in the end,” Kincaid said. “This will just make us stronger. We have to build as a team. It’s not going to be easy. Everybody has to be together and work hard.”Coach John Hynes was particularly frustrated with his team’s breakout against the Leafs.“We have to play better. On four out of the six goals, we had the puck on our tape coming out of the zone, so our puck execution needs to be better. We’ll have to do that better against Winnipeg,” he said.The Rocket Richard Trophy, named in honor of the Montreal Canadiens legend who led the league in goal scoring five times in the 1940s and 1950s, has been awarded since 1999 to the league’s top goal scorer.The player with the most total points is given the Art Ross Trophy, named in honor of a former player and executive. A trophy to the top playmaker could be named after Wayne Gretzky, who retired in 1999 with 1,963 assists. He has more assists than any other player has total points.