Thursday, January 25, 2007

Don't blame Bettman

There's been a ton of good (and bad) copy coming out of Dallas, with a legion of NHL beat guys all cranking out the copy to justify the expense for their various publications, but one of the best pieces I read over the past few days came from a guy who didn't make the trip to Texas.

In his column from today, Globe Sports' Stephen Brunt (who's taking a breather from his NFL playoff coverage) stands up just a little for commissioner Gary Bettman by pointing the finger at the men behind the curtain, the ones who have been increasingly in the picture as various quizzical decisions continue to come out of these intermittent BOG meetings. Here's Brunt:
During the same all-star week in which the league's marketing machine has been working overtime to cast Sidney Crosby as hockey's Michael Jordan, the governors opted against a schedule that would put him in every NHL rink at least once a year.

And Bettman couldn't change their minds. As he acknowledged this week, he is not a caster of lightning bolts from on high. He works at the pleasure of his employers, the club owners, and when push comes to shove, they call the shots.
It's an interesting read, and it really gets to what's at the heart of all of the NHL's problems: $.

Choosing against having to make a few more interconference road trips may be the equivalent of counting pennies in a league with a $2-billion bottom line, but that's the situation this plucky little league finds itself in.

And, all the while, the bigwigs are looking to Kansas City as their saviour.



At 3:11 a.m., January 25, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Most percieve Bettman as a lightening bolt, when he really is just a lighteneing rod for fans frustration.

I read the article before I found it here again.

Most people are ignorant to the fact that Bettman is nothing more than the owners rep. He's PR and that's it. He has hardly ever made a decision that has impacted the game. He is the voice of the owners group who are quite content to let him be the fan that the shit hits.

The teams on the West coast, and those who mostly hit road trips by bus are to blame for the hold on the imbalanced schedule - not Bettman.

I'm glad Brunt took steps to clarify this.

Read his book on Bobby Orr!

At 9:29 a.m., January 25, 2007, Blogger alyosha mcbain said...

Bettman as a human shield for the NHL's owners--I like that interpretation, it's very appropriate. He will be pilloried later down the road for the era of over-expansion, as well.

KC is going to be a disaster for the Penguins. They've already lost an NHL franchise once, and they've also lost an NBA franchise. There should be a rule in the NHL bylaws that teams which have won the Stanley Cup are not allowed to move.....

At 10:08 a.m., January 25, 2007, Anonymous Lyle Richardson said...

Bettman deserves his share of the blame. While it's easy to suggest he's merely the front man, he does as commissioner have direct input into the league's decisions, and he's the point man in bringing in advertising dollars and other forms of revenue.

Still, Brunt's point is a good one. Everyone like to pile on Bettman, but the owners deserve as much criticism for the state of the NHL today.

If the labour wars since 1992 have taught us anything, it's that dollars drive everything, and that's what's put the league in its current fix - the quest for the almighty American dollar in a market that simply may not be interested in the product.

At 10:18 a.m., January 25, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

30 teams, 11 selfish and ignorant BOGs... When you have fossils like Wirtz in Chicago who runs the team like Mike Johnson runs "Fastest Man in the World" races, what do you expect? The NFL got it, they understood it, they accepted what changes and adjustments needed to be made to make their league become extremely successful. But the NHL? Nothing but regional protectionists, the whole lot of them.

Mlakar says "we didn't want to lose those 2 games against the division rivals". TWO GAMES??? Are those 2 games going to skew your bottom line SO MUCH that it will result in you not signing either some UFA's or some of your own current roster? Ridiculous thinking, absolutely ridiculous, narrow minded and short sighted...

The off-ice decision making in this league is so inept, and has been for decades, I know I won't see any significant steps FORWARD before I die, and I'm still a young guy... And when I say "significant steps", I'm not talking about a freakin' "glowing puck", or mic'd refs, or whatever other gimmick is dreamt up by some dude with time to waste. I'm talking about someone finally realizing that just because (for example) Houston is the "biggest market in the US without an NHL franchise", it doesn't mean that you have to make it (or Vegas) the next city for expansion. Don't these retards do ANY marketing studies or demographic studies before moving or granting a city an NHL franchise? Never mind, of course they don't... WHO GIVES A FLYING FRIG IF HOUSTON IS THE LARGEST US MARKET WITHOUT AN NHL FRANCHISE??? Did it ever dawn on these eggheads that there's a REASON for that? Ummmmmm, maybe because it's in HOUSTON??? Maybe because they have no history of a passion for the game, it's NOT bred into their culture or the people like it is here in Canada? I am not in marketing but why does a schlub like me even grasp that concept? Hockey in Carolina, Atlanta, Nashville? Look, there are a very small group of hardcore hockey fans down there, I won't doubt that, but OVERALL, THESE ARE NOT HOCKEY MARKETS. In general, your population has ZERO interest in hockey. We're trying to compete with NFL and NASCAR down there, MLB too. Your buildings are begging to fill the seats during the regular season. Try to find an empty seat in ANY of the Canadian cities during the regular season, I dare anyone. How is it possible for me to walk up to the window and buy tix on gameday sitting 3 rows from the glass at Philips Arena to see the Habs vs. Thrashers??? I said "Two seats, best available" and that's what they gave me!!! I almost fainted! Try that in Montreal, Ottawa, Vancouver, etc. But no, the BOGs say "Wow, your entrance fee cheque has cleared the bank (thanks for your $$$ by the way), and welcome to the NHL". There is NO other consideration for these types of decisions on expansion or schedule tweaking except $$$. The BOGs get their cut and smile as they shake hands with their bank prez. Oh, but there's empty seats and the team is struggling financially since there's little fan support and the population doesn't even follow hockey as their fave sport? Wow, we didn't realize that as we were counting our zillions, sorry... But we're expanding again to South Padre Island because some internet guru is paying the ga-jillion $ entrance fee, yum... Idiots, the lot of them...

Sorry for the rant but there will be no SANE schedule changes, no SANE expansion team placements, no SANE new team placements, and on and on and on, until the ENTIRE crop of current BOGs either retires or expires and new BOGs with fresh ideas, knowledge of the fan base, knowledge of the game and the foresight to accept smaller inconveniences for the future greater good of the league come out of the woodwork. And don't bother waiting for that to happen anytime soon, even dinosaurs lived for millions of years...


At 11:08 a.m., January 25, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is why the NHL does not have a Commissioner, instead it has a Chairman of the Board. A Commissioner would work in the best interest of the sport. The COB works on behalf of the owners and doesn't have the authority to set things right.

At 1:40 p.m., January 25, 2007, Anonymous Scott said...

Let's not forget that the need for a two-thirds vote by the governors is Bettman's doing. And he was a big pusher of the current schedule. He's not as powerless as he's being made out to be here.

At 2:08 p.m., January 25, 2007, Blogger Desdemona said...

20 of 30 owners were required to vote for a change in a schedule. 8 of 30 owners were required to vote for an approved CBA. Since Bettman refuses to create an actual democracy, I am inclined to believe that he isn't always speaking on behalf of the "majority" of the owners. So, while the point of this article is well taken, it's taken with a grain of salt.

At 3:19 p.m., January 25, 2007, Anonymous Trev said...


While I mostly agree with your opinion, I have to say: third row from the glass are shitty, overpriced seats. I know they'd be sold out in cities you mentioned, but that still doesn't change the fact they suck. ;)

At 7:30 p.m., January 25, 2007, Anonymous showtyme21 said...

Just thought I'd check in with the fact that Winnipeg has gone nuts over the comment that Winnipeg "could at some point get a NHL Franchise". James, you could probably do a story on that, but Chipman has just come out with a statement saying that he's working with the league to see whether there's any possibility of a team relocating to Winnipeg.

At 10:06 p.m., January 25, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Try to find an empty seat in ANY of the Canadian cities during the regular season, I dare anyone.

You didn't see shots of GM Place earlier this season, did you? How about Edmonton or Calgary when those two teams were on the bigtime skids? Ottawa this season? I've seen plenty of empty seats during play on Centre Ice.

No team is truly bulletproof in this league except for the Leafs and the Canadiens, so I suggest checking some facts before opening your yap to spew a bunch of half-truths.

At 11:56 a.m., January 26, 2007, Blogger J. Michael Neal said...

This is why the NHL does not have a Commissioner, instead it has a Chairman of the Board. A Commissioner would work in the best interest of the sport. The COB works on behalf of the owners and doesn't have the authority to set things right.

Wrong. The commissioner is, in every sport, an employee of the owners. Yes, they have some real power within the structure, but they serve at the whim of ownership. No one can "work in the best interest of the sport" when one particular group within the sport has the power to hire them, set his salary, and fire him. The owners have that power with a commsisioner; no one else does.

The idea that the baseball commissioner was an independent voice working for everyone's aggregate best interests, of the "sport" if you will, was one of the greatest, most damaging frauds ever perpetrated upon the sporting public. It was partially true under Landis, but the moment he retired, the commissioner became, and has been ever since, the tool of the owners' interests. The instant Fay Vincent forgot that, they fired him.

Do not ever count on a commissioner to represent anyone's interests other than those of the people who pay him. Ever.


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