The Times has a long piece on NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and his role in the lockout.
There’s not much new information, but it did remind me of a few things:
- 1. Bettman’s insane expansion of the league really drove up the price for talented players. How many of the NHL’s 200,000 players do you think are really talented or interesting to watch? Half? One quarter? But with all of these teams, you need bodies on the ice. So the cost of quality players goes up because the competition for them is so high. If Bettman hadn’t added 75 teams to the league, owners wouldn’t have to compete as much as they do for talent. The players would have less options in terms of where they can play.
2. Bettman just doesn’t understand hockey’s place in sports. He pulled the plug on the league in 1994, moments after the sport had etched itself in the minds of Americans. Say what you will about the Rangers — their Stanley Cup run in 1994 brought hockey to the cover of Sports Illustrated, and back then, that really meant something. Bettman never seemed to understand hockey’s rise in 1994 was a big deal for the sport.
3. Bettman also never seemed to understand that hockey isn’t a TV sport. There’s just too much going on. A smarter commissioner would have worked around that. Like if you can’t score a fat American TV contract, maybe look into foreign rights. Or maybe really hitch your wagon to a technology like HDTV, which makes hockey a lot more interesting to watch (so I’m told). Bettman just kind of kept running into the brick wall that is hockey on TV instead of getting creative or innovative.
4. Bettman also never seen to understand hockey as a game. He let the goalies get bigger, the clutching get ridiculous, and the defenses get stifling. He sat by and let the sport get (at times) absurdly slow. A more hockey-minded commissioner would have had a better sense of what makes the game fun and what makes it dull. Bettman never seemed mildly interested in that.
Oh. And Sidney Crosby is saying that he doesn’t want to be a scab next season. Now that he’s clarified that, I guess it’s safe for him to go fish a puck out of the corners.