Welcome to Gary's world ladies and gentleman. You are now a fan of the league Mr. Bettman envisioned when he became commissioner—a league ruled by parity and the all mighty dollar.
The fact of the matter is that the NHL has never been as financially stable is it is now under Bettman's leadership. I know hockey fans don't want to hear this, but it's true. The competitive balance in the NHL has never been more level than it is today under Bettman's leadership, thanks to his institution of the salary cap. I know hockey fans don't want to hear this either.
Why don't hockey fans want to hear these facts? Why do so many hate that Bettman is successful? The answer is pretty simple, Bettman has bastardized the sport so many love. During his stead as commissioner, Bettman has systematically assaulted the sport in the pursuit of profitability.
He has promoted its "expansion," while ignoring the real fans here in the Northern US and Canada. He has made it clear that in his NHL, the qualities that make hockey special—the tradition, the physicality, the skill, and yes, the fighting—are less important than the potential fans in the south and if they can tell you who Sidney Crosby is.
And that's where this article comes to a head. The NHL needs more Dana White and less Gary Bettman. How does the free-speaking president of the UFC fit into a conversation about the NHL?
Well, to put it simply, Dana White is the other side of the Gary Bettman coin. When White and the Fertitta Brothers bought the UFC in the 90s, they had similar problems to the NHL. White was the president of an organization that was less than profitable and carried a significant stigma to the general public—cage-fighting was barbaric.
But rather than bend at the whims of the general public and the dollar, White made sure the UFC stayed loyal to its constituents. Although there were significant rule changes, the feel of the sport stayed the same.
Now fast forward nearly 20 years. The UFC just pulled in an estimated 700,000 pay-per-view buys for its UFC 145 card and recently signed a big-time deal with the FOX network.
Mixed martial arts is now the fastest growing sport in the world because of the popularity of the UFC. The NHL on the other hand? According to the Washington Post, NFL draft coverage gathered more viewership than Game 7 of the Caps-Bruins in Washington.
I know I don't speak for all fans, but I believe I speak for many when I say I wish things were different. I wish Mr. Bettman would recognize what hockey and the NHL is. The NHL will never compete with the NFL or MLB here in America, and that's fine.
NHL Hockey is a niche sport for the Northern USA and Canada—and the fans here love it. We love that the NHL is a violent game. We love that it's a game where players police themselves. We love the tradition of our game.
Maybe it's time Mr. Bettman steps back and learns a thing or two from Dana White. It's time to take care of your fans Gary. Would the league be as profitable? Maybe. Maybe not. I don't have an answer to that question. But the real shame of it is that we probably won't get that answer for a long, long time.