Bettman: Hall of Shame or Hall of Fame?

Does Gary Bettman belong in the Hockey Hall of Fame? |

It was 20 years ago today that the NHL found an obscure NBA executive and anointed him as the first ever commissioner. Now before you start spitting in anger at the thought of this question, consider it carefully: Does Gary Bettman belong in the Hall of Fame?

Too late. I spit in anger.

[…] Just consider the state of the league in 1992 and the state of the league today disregarding the current lockout […]

It’s not possible to assess the “state of the league today” while “disregarding the current lock-out.” That would be like saying a band that breaks up at the height of its popularity is better off than when it was less popular. The band doesn’t exist.

[…] Total revenues were around $400 million and now they are more than $3 billion annually. There were 24 teams then and now there are 30.

I would rather there be 24 teams and hockey every year than 30 teams and serial cancelations of entire seasons. I personally can live happily without hockey in Atlanta, Nashville, Phoenix, Florida, Anaheim, Columbus, Carolina or wherever else.

As well, the league just signed a $2 billion TV deal with NBC. So in terms of pure revenue and growth, it’s a no brainer: Bettman’s tenure has been wildly successful.

I actually don’t care at all how much money “the league” makes in its TV deals. I don’t see any of that money. If anything, the fact that the league gets its NBC money even if there’s a lock-out probably made the lock-out much easier for the owners to stomach.

If he were a CEO with those numbers, he would be lauded as a visionary genius and be on the cover of Forbes magazine.

Really? If Bettman were the CEO of Coke, and they had “those numbers” but every few years for months or years on end there was NO FUCKING COKE, I doubt he would be lauded by anyone.

On the purely hockey front, Bettman has seen the game transition from a clutch and grab nightmare, where the New Jersey Devils employed the neutral zone trap into three snooze inducing Stanley Cup victories, to one where the most exciting group of young players in memory now rule the game.

Unless you think Bettman is somehow the father of any of those players, it’s absurd to give him credit for that. And as far as clutch and grab, that started after Bettman. Before Bettman we were still solidly in the Gretzky/Hull/Bossy era. When was the last time anyone scored 70-80 goals in a season?

[…] No longer are hockey players seen as mindless slugs, who will fight at the drop of a hat.

Says who? As far as I can tell, most non-hockey fans think exactly this.

[…] Scott Stevens might be little more than a pylon in today’s NHL. When he was terrorizing players in the 1990s, it was mainly due to the neutral zone clogging, which saw the best players get funneled directly toward his intimidating elbows. Stevens would be a pariah in today’s league, much like such head-hunters as Raffi Torres or Matt Cooke.

That’s absurd. If everything was “clogged” that means everyone was going slower, which means Stevens’ checks would be even more devastating today than they were 20 years ago. How do you know Stevens wouldn’t just be faster and in better shape just like everyone else?

He has overseen a transformation of the game into a fast-paced exciting game.

Yeah, it was so boring and slow when Bobby Orr, Guy Lafleur and Yvon Cournoyer played. Or Gretzky and Coffey.

The commissioner has championed the NHL’s move to the American south and west with teams in Nashville, Atlanta, Dallas, Phoenix, Carolina and Denver. Two new northern teams were also created under Bettman’s watch: Minnesota and Columbus. This American expansion certainly has some mixed results but Dallas, Carolina, Tampa and Los Angeles all won their first Stanley Cups during his tenure in these non-traditional markets.

The Kings were 25 years old when Bettman arrived. I kind of like the Stars and Avs. The rest of them can be dispersed in a draft and we’d all be better off. Except the fans in those cities. But you can’t please everyone.

[…] He signed an infamous deal with Fox Sports best known for the glowing puck, signed another deal with ABC and ESPN for $600 million, and is set to cash in on that massive deal with NBC Sports beginning this season.

“This” season? What season would that be? Let’s wait to see what the NBC deal looks like once there’s NHL hockey again. Then we’ll know how great it was.

The glowing puck is enough to invalidate Bettman’s HHOF prospects in one fell swoop.

These accomplishments have been dwarfed by the three work stoppages he has overseen, but remember Bettman is employed by the owners and therefore doesn’t do anything without their approval.

He can do whatever he wants as long as he has the support of eight owners out of thirty.

[…] While most Canadians would rather strangle their own mothers rather than see Bettman in the Hall of Fame, he has made a good case for inclusion despite his flaws. Putting aside all the vitriol, what do you think?

To me, this is just another version of “Besides that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?”


  5 comments for “Bettman: Hall of Shame or Hall of Fame?

  1. USHA#17
    December 13, 2012 at 5:58 PM

    Encased in concrete when a new wing is added.

    • December 13, 2012 at 8:39 PM


  2. Model62
    December 14, 2012 at 6:06 PM

    That was a pretty good fisking.

    I’m not a big fan of Gary Bettman, but in straight up business CEO terms, it’s hard to argue with his accomplishments. Revenue IS way up. Franchise values ARE way up. The lockouts have hurt, but the terms he’s gotten from the PA because of them (and those he’s likely to get out of this lockout) have been clear wins for ownership.

    The Sunbelt experiment has not been a clear success. Neither has it been a clear disaster. What is clear, is that for the league to grow as a business, for franchise values to continue to grow (and grow faster), something like the Sunbelt strategy has to work. Canada and the traditional markets are too small and don’t have much upside — there’s only so much money to be squeezed from the gate and local TV. New markets must be opened up and exploited outside of the traditional regions. It’s the only avenue available for strong long term growth.

    • USHA#17
      December 19, 2012 at 9:05 AM

      Only problem as I see it is the watering down of talent. Perhaps my memories wax nostalgic but I seem to remember a time when the talent level of most teams was generally deeper overall.

      In the short term accepting European players filled that gap while eroding a bit of the rough and tumble edge hockey was famous for. Further expansion simply outpaced the global talent pool to a point were piss poor 2nd and 3rd lines on many teams has become common.

  3. SCSF
    December 18, 2012 at 8:47 PM

    Well done, sir. I tend to take a measured approach to things, but I’ve really grown weary of the Bettman show. For the most part, the NHL has grown in spite of him, not on account of his vision of southern hockey. The interrupted and / or lost seasons really makes the league appear second-rate at best, and the posturing during negotiations really turns my stomach. With proper leadership, this season did not need to be lost. Jacobs and the other puppet masters used Gary brilliantly, unfortunately.

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