Maybe it’s just me, but there always seems to be a certain smugness to Gary Bettman’s weasely face every time a camera is put on him. Seemingly oblivious to the fact that most fans of the NHL, and I dare say the players too, cannot stand the mere sight of him, Bettman carries himself with a sense of inconceivable self-worth.
Facing the third work stoppage in his tenure as NHL commissioner, you would think there would be a certain amount of alarm in his tone. There has to be a sense of urgency to get a deal done. Right? There can’t possibly be another lockout, can there? It looks like there can and most likely will be.
Who the hell is this guy? Exactly who does he think he is anyway? Gary Bettman will have you believe that he is the one who has saved the NHL from itself. He has led the league to unbelievable profits and parity. He has taken the sport to new markets, and gotten the huge television deal that the NHL couldn’t land before him.
Wake up Bettman. This isn’t your work. This is called economics. Profits were destined to soar as an economy prospered and a cost of living increased. The unbelievable injection of skill from a new generation of superstars propelled the league to new heights. I’ll give you some credit for expansion, but guess what Gary, Gretzky had already helped bring some interest to different markets.
The league had already started the expansion wheels, but you came along in time to take credit for it. It would be like David Stern taking some type of credit for the NBA boom during the height of Michael Jordan’s title runs. Four of the six expansion teams were already set in motion before Bettman took his post.
The television deal that the NHL could never secure came because ESPN recognized the appeal of the NHL as more than a niche sport. The 1990′s saw the emergence of Mario Lemieux, Wayne Gretzky in his prime, Mark Messier ending a 54-year Stanley Cup drought in New York, the fall of the Eastern-bloc and the opened flood gates of Russian and Eastern Europe talent to the NHL. Eric Lindros, Brett Hull, Jaromir Jagr, Sergei Fedorov, Pavel Bure, Peter Forsberg, the Detroit Red Wings/Colorado Avalanche rivalry. This was on television because the public demanded it, not because Gary Bettman allowed it.
Gary Bettman has no connection to hockey other than accepting the post that was invented for him by the NHL league owners. The “Commissioner” position was created for Bettman after NHL president Gil Stein was relieved of his duties in 1993. Prior to taking the post, Bettman served as a legal counsel and executive vice president for David Stern in the NBA.
There is less than a month before the NHL takes a huge step in the wrong direction. Bettman’s negotiating tactics are not to compromise or meet anywhere near the middle. He is extending his middle finger to Donald Fehr and the NHLPA, saying “Meet me right here, not one inch further.” The threat of another lockout is what he is counting on to get the deal he wants.
Gary Bettman, you were hired with the specific purpose of ending labor strife. You have failed. Get up from the negotiating table and go away. Please and thank you
Rob Kirk is an avid sports enthusiast and gentleman of leisure who enjoys the finer things in life, such as moustaches, hockey and the musical stylings of David Hasselhoff. You can check out his writing on Bleacherreport.com and ThePuckDoctors.com. Follow him on @RobKirkBR and marvel at the size of his head!