The NHL’s Commissioner Hates Hockey

I bet, every year, he wishes he didn’t have to watch ANY games. What he loves is being an anti-labor lawyer, which he is very good at.

Mary Altaffer / AP

Gary Bettman, the NHL’s first commissioner (Before him, the league had presidents) is a labor relations lawyer from Queens who has never shot a puck in anger in his life.

Right now, I’d pay…$1,000—easy—for the chance to plant my shoulder in his chest as he walked/slid in his lawyer dress shoes with his lizard-faced head down through the neutral zone.

You can read about the numbers involved with his third (3rd) NHL lockout here.

Talking about these numbers makes me ill. I am very ill right now. I’m a hockey fan, and player. I love the game. It’s the only sport I care about, and have cared about deeply since I was seven.

Bettman argues that the game came back stronger than ever after the 2004-05 lockout, and he’s right. League revenue has increased from $2.2 to $3.3 billion a year, attendance is up almost across the board, and the NHL has a ten-year, $1 billion TV deal in place.

But what Bettman fails to mention is that major rule changes went into effect in 2005-06 making the game much more offense-friendly (stricter holding/interference refereeing, elimination of the two-line pass, etc). Also, the league had two great young stars in Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin.

Bettman has neither on the horizon this time around: no young superstars (on Crosby’s level) and no major rule changes.

He doesn’t care. He hates hockey.

His reasoning for needing a new Collective Bargaining Agreement: “we need to adjust.” When asked why, he has said because costs for owners have risen—jet fuel, yacht docking fees, etc. Who is he kidding? Has the cost of living gone down for the players?

But he knows the players are fucked with no games. He knows the owners are not.

The only bargaining chip Donald Fehr and the players have is the New Year’s Day game between the Red Wings and Maple Leafs in front of 115,000 fans and a big NBC audience. The owners want that money pretty badly.

But not badly enough to give any real concessions to the players. Because, this will end—one way or the other—with the players making much less money. The owners have income. They can wait.

A bunch of fans recently sounded off here. Here’s my favorite, and the one that aligns with my feelings the closest (Naveed from Texas):

Man, why do they do this to me? I spend about 73% of my time outside of sleeping and pooping caring about hockey, and here the NHL is fixing to take that away from me for the 2nd time. Nothing in this world, outside of sleeping and pooping, makes me as happy as hockey. Right now I’m in med school, and its f’n miserable. What was helping me stay sane was being excited about the upcoming look of the new Stars team, but no. Now I’m gonna be stuck with my head in a book without ever seeing Kari Lehtonen making huge saves. This [expletive] sucks.

Never mind the shoulder. I’d crosscheck Bettman in the eyes.

UPDATE: And, here’s a “lockout minstrel” written by a redditor Blackhawks fan to the tune “The Sound Of Silence.”

Twenty (20) fans showed up to protest outside the NHL store here in Manhattan, Saturday. Look at that: Devil and Ranger fans uniting. Via Puck Daddy.

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