The New 'New NHL': Bye bye Bettman!

A much needed shift in Hockey Culture

This past month is proof that the hockey world is ready for change. With Colin "I'm a Bruins fan" Campbell stepping down as Director of Hockey Operations, along with the relocation of the Atlanta Thrashers to Winnipeg, justice may finally prevail for a league with a big heart, and a terrible reputation.

Since garnering the title of League Commissioner in 1993, Gary Bettman has done his very best to Americanize the game of hockey. Almost immediately after joining the NHL, Bettman commissioned the movement of two Canadian-based franchises (Quebec and Winnipeg) to U.S. cities (Colorado and Phoenix, respectively). He followed that up by forerunning the league's expansion south of the boarder at the turn of the millennium, introducing NHL franchises to Nashville (1998), Atlanta (1999), and Columbus (2000) (and returning a franchise to Minnesota (2000)). Now, over a decade later, Bettman is frantically salting the wounds that he helped create. The Phoenix Coyotes organization has been kept on life-support for the better part of the last 10 years, and several other U.S.-based organizations are destined for similar fates, including the Columbus Bluejackets and the Florida Panthers- both products of the Bettman-era. I guess what I am trying to say is that Bettman really f**ked up this time, and that his only respectable option at this point is to step down from office. The developments which unfolded over the last month are both a great start, as well as testament to the fact that the league is ready for a makeover (yet again).

Coli's replacement, Brendan Shanahan's promotion, and the revival and restoration of the Winnipeg Jets signal a new era in the National Hockey League. Hopefully Shanahan will have a better understanding of the words 'intentional hit to the head' than did "Sheriff" Campbell (who also may want to search the definitions of "stanchion" and "injustice for the Pacioretty family"). I certainly don't want to speak too soon, but honestly, how much more of a 'goonery' can the league become? Yes, I invented a word. Bettman's NHL seemed to see progressively more injuries (mainly to the head area) each year than did any other period throughout hockey's illustrious history. Now obviously the onus does not fall entirely on Bettman, but let's just say he was instrumental in downplaying the aftermath of serious injuries as a result of a brutal check. He, along with Colin Campbell, managed to blur even the most simple and comprehendible of rules, such as 'no targeting of the head', and 'zero tolerance stick slashing'. But with Coli gone, and with Bettman's days numbered, hopefully the league can soon return to form. As one team packs up and moves north the question is asked "who's next?". Atlanta still hasn't seemed to notice...

And so allow me to be the first to usher in a new era in the much-maligned NHL. Bettman's failed attempt at total Americanization may prove to be the catalyst for the movement of the game back to Canada. Back where hockey is respected more for its speed, finesse, and athleticism, than for its thuggish brawls and brutal open-ice hits. I hope I did not offend any American hockey fans, who have as much passion for the game as I do, as this rant was more of an attack on Bettman, and his vision for the league. With no creative segway, I'll finish with this heartfelt goodbye to Gary Bettman. Goodbye Gary Bettman.

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Comments 3 comments

Decatur Staley 5 years ago

Let's not forget that Winnipeg and Quebec were losing money year after year. The other main issue was that there was no salary cap yet. Winnipeg, Hartford and other smaller market teams had to relocate to compete. Yes Atlanta was a bust as is the Panthers franchise, but you can't assume that Canadian markets are better. Yes Hockey is Canada's National sport, but there are larger media markets in the states and Bettman was trying to make the game of Hockey larger across North America. It has not backfired everywhere in the U.S. Tampa Bay, San Jose, Anaheim, Colorado, Carolina and Dallas (until recently) have been supportive of their hockey teams. I am glad Winnipeg has been granted a team and I hope that Quebec gets one too, but Americans are showing more interest in the Post-Lockout Hockey era.


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stoneyjohnson 5 years ago from Montreal Author

@Decatur Staley, that is a great point. Winnipeg and Quebec would have likely been much more successful, more viable franchises in a salary-cap league, where revenues are more dispersed, and where socialism- in a good way- is practiced. That being said, my problem with the direction hockey WAS headed had more to do with Bettman's attempts at all out '' americanization" at the cost of losing several loyal Canadian fan-bases. Bettman simply did not and does not care to promote the game in Canada, and although I agree that, with more promotion, hockey can seriously take off in the States, it remains, as you said, a truly Canadian identity. It is less about national pride and more about the reality that Canada does not have too much to brag about- save hockey. I certainly don't want to see the end of hockey in the USA, but I also don't much care to watch my favorite teams play in front of 7,000 fans every night, as is the case in many Bettman-era franchises.


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