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Gary, Unharried



Everyone seems to hate Gary Bettman, and I think I’m supposed to too.  I’m just not certain why.

Sure, I know he can seem smug and unlikeable.  And I haven’t always agreed with everything he’s said, or the way he promotes (or rather, doesn’t) the NHL.  But overall, I think he does the job pretty well.

Canadians, more than anyone, hate the guy.  Check out the Macleans magazine interview with him.  I couldn’t get over the questions he was asked, like he has some grand plan to royally f**k the game, screw Canada specifically, then disappear into the mountains somewhere.

Look, I even used a non-weasely picture of him.

Look, I even used a non-weasely picture of him.

Somehow to the interviewer, the fact that Canada didn’t get another hockey team overshadowed the more important stats – that the league has been doing better in all the major categories (revenue, attendence, merchandise, etc.) for four years now.  The game is fun to watch again, players are earning fair contracts, and teams that we once feared we’d lose (I’m looking at you, Alberta) are on solid ground thanks to revenue sharing (and a stronger Canadian dollar).

I can’t imagine how much Bettman has learned in his days as Commissioner.  This guys knows the ins and outs of the job better than any new guy handed the baton would, and think – is there really a commissioner in any sport that’s liked?  David Stern (NBA) is an asshole, right?  Bud Selig (MLBA) is an asshole too, isn’t he?  And what of Goodell (NFL)?  What’s he so mad about in all his interviews?

It’s a tough, unpopular job.  You’re the figurehead that absorbs the abuse, in Bettman’s case, the chastising taken for trying to restore the league into the American consciousness.  Just because you disagree with the guy doesn’t make him a pedarest or something.  He hasn’t committed an actual crime along the way that I’m aware of, did he?  Did he test positive for steroids somewhere along the line?

There were times in the US when the NHL was a punchline.  Not only were no highlights shown on TV (or respect given anywhere, really), but I think I only heard about the league when metaphors for dead things were needed.  Yup. Dog got hit by a car. I walked out the front door, and he was just layin’ there, deader than the NHL.  Poor thing never had a chance.  Sports radio hosts crucified it.  These days, those same hosts are scrambling to get to know the league again so they can at least hold a conversation on our resurgent sport.

The league has done a great job of taking Crosby and Ovechkin, making them saviours, and watching the game grow with them.  Crosby winning a cup?  No small potatoes for a league that certainly needed a boost like that.  People actually tuned in to watch it happen (watch, this year it’ll be an Atlanta/Nashville final).

I’m not saying I wanna hang out with Bettman.  Let’s just acknowledge that he has done some good for the game, and that he might have one of the toughest jobs in America.  Probably the toughest job in sports.

If you read my blog, you probably like hockey.  And Bettman has done well to bring the game back into the “major four sports” category.  You can’t hate on that.


Just don't eat me coach, and I'll listen... Just calm down, and don't eat me.

Just don't eat me coach, and I'll listen... Just calm down, and don't eat me.

Random sidebar: The coach of the Kansas Jayhawks football team is “under investigation” (what, for eating porkribs for breakfast?  Have you seen the size of this guy?) for apparently “grabbing a player, jamming his finger into his chest”… and something else inconsequential.  There might be more, but I just heard that much on SportsCenter.

I’ve been sitting on stories about my junior coach, waiting to turn it into a five part series or something but… f**k.  These kids are reporting their coach because he got slightly physical?  And they’re football players?  No wonder they’ve started losing games.

My junior coach had a “f**k up and get hacked” rule.  You didn’t listen, he shot a puck at you.  And not low.  He pinned me to the glass with his stick under my throat for laughing while he was explaining something.  Skated nearly the length of the ice after seeing me laugh.  It wasn’t cool, but whatever.  What, I’m gonna quit cause I have to listen?  Report it to SportsCenter?  Get a lawyer? 

Man up, Kansas.


One more thing.  To the woman he did this to her poodle for Halloween… go sit in the corner and think about what your life has become.




11 Responses to “Gary, Unharried”
  1. zyllyx says:

    Macleans mortgaged all the goodwill they built with me after their stellar expose of Jim Balsillie’s history of franchise hijacking with this interview.

    Keep in mind, I don’t much like Gary Bettman. You’d think I would considering I’m a Coyotes fan and we wouldn’t have a team anymore if it wasn’t for him. It’s just that I don’t like his brand of lawyer – the kind who wears emotions like outfits and who always has a spare pantsuit of outrage tucked in his briefcase for contingencies. He’s not the devil hockey fans think he is, though – just moderately irritating.

    I read somewhere on some comment board that some Canadians think that Wayne Gretzky should be made commissioner. Yeah, good luck with that, hockey fans.

    (Hmm. Spare Pantsuit of Outrage. Sounds like a shitty New York club band.)

  2. angus says:

    Gary’s stubborness with regards to expansion is his only real blemish. Most of the owners didn’t want Balsille, and they are the ones who sign Gary’s paychecks.

  3. Neil says:

    I’ve never checked, but Gary (and others) insist Edmonton, Ottawa, and possibly Calgary would not have made it through the tough times without some profit-sharing scheme from Gary that emphasized the Canadian teams.

    There is a perception in Canada that Bettman is willing to take a chance on sunny American cities that don’t really like hockey but not on snowy Canadian cities begging for NHL clubs (while they go insane for the Manitoba Moose). Why roll the dice in Phoenix and Nashville (?) but not Hamilton or Winnipeg where the passion is there already?

    Personally, I think it’s just money. If the U.S. doesn’t watch, the league tanks, if it takes off in the U.S., everyone is gonna get rich(er). Mostly American ownership, mostly American interests. Canadians already obsess about hockey way too much, why work to boost a market you already have?

    Still, watching these “sunbelt” teams take million-dollar profit-sharing cheques while begging their fans to come watch for $10 a seat (and Gary swats away potential buyers) is painful when it fails. I agree with many Canadians that Gary is all about growing the game in the U.S. but I think this is a reasonable business decision, not proof of the paranoid Canadian delusion that Gary is out to screw Canada.

    It seems like the only things Balsillie ever had going for him were his money and the Canadian willingness to follow ANYONE into battle against Gary.

  4. JD says:

    That poodle shot is quite disturbing..

  5. AiH says:

    If you want to grow the NHL you have to do it by adding new fans. You can’t do that in Canada. You have to do that in the United States, possibly Europe. That is what Gary Bettman is trying to do.

    Q: How many new NHL fans would the league have added by moving a team to Hamilton?
    A: Somewhere around zero

  6. angus says:

    Yes, but you also can’t run a proper business with consistent losses. Putting a team in Hamilton may not add new fans (I disagree and say that it will), but it surely will add more money to the league than Phoenix does. How much will ultimately decide the expansion/relocation fee that the NHL will seek.

  7. Tom Curran says:

    I think the “Hate Bettman” crowd(my membership is paid in full)are the hardcore hockey fans who just don’t like him because he’s not a hockey guy. Can you picture old Gary hunkering down with some cold suds and a meat lovers grease wheel cheering on the Rangers? Kinda like picturing Mike Tyson teaching public speaking isn’t it! He has the stench of a potential Ranger fan!!
    Great piece on THN Justin! The guys on the ice have to make the change themselves for sure!!
    P.S. most dog owners really are bat-shit crazy!!

  8. Marc says:

    Honestly I haven’t seen anything that Bettman has done that makes me think he’s as much of an insufferable douche; it’s just the way he looks in almost every photo he’s in. Personally the only thing I’d like to see him do (and he probably cant do anything about) is fixing the total mess that is actual TV coverage of the NHL. Most NHL “packages” come with 4 games a season in HD, if you dont have one you’re lucky to see your local team’s home game while ESPN shows poker and the local sport’s affiliate airs the high school diving tournament held at the rec center last week.

  9. Brett says:

    Picking up on Tom Curran’s comment, I think when Bettman came into the league and he changed the division and conference names from Campbell, Wales, Patrick, Adams, Smythe, and Norris to the current geographical categorization, he was perceived as doing something akin to what Eric Mangini did when he tore down the mural of Browns legends in the team practice facility upon arriving in Cleveland. That’s not going to win you a lot of fans, and it certainly feeds the belief that Bettman is trying to popularize the game at the expense of the real die-hard fans. That said, I agree that he’s done a rather good job, generally speaking, in a rather thankless role.

  10. siouxinpa says:

    TMNT poodle = AWESOME!

  11. Ben says:

    Any chance Bettman will expand a team out to London? It’s knackering trying to follow the Hawks at 2am every other night

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