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The National Hockey League commissioner took batting practice Tuesday in his 2006-07 Gary Bettman & Friends pre-season news conference, swatting most of the slo-pitch offerings from hockey reporters for extra-base hits without raising a bead of perspiration.

This was no fault of the scribes. There's just nothing very controversial lurking in Bettman's closet, at the moment.

All the rancour of last year is gone. The only fallout still percolating from the 2004-05 lockout is the continuing saga of NHL Players Association head Ted Saskin, and the cadre of veterans -- led by Detroit's Chris Chelios and Edmonton's Dwayne Roloson, and no doubt a bunch of unhappy agents -- who want his head (and maybe Trevor Linden's, for good measure) on a platter.

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