It is pretty easy to dislike Gary Bettman. He is the constant face of NHL labor unrest. While the NHLPA can't seem to keep the same negotiating team on their side of the table, Bettman has preened and haggled from the owners' side since they invented his position in 1993.
One of the biggest issues on the table during current negotiations between players and owners regards player salaries. They were rolled back in 2005 as a salary cap was introduced, and it is expected that the owners wish to roll them back even further. I'm wondering if a salary rollback would include Commissioner Bettman. His 2010-11 salary of nearly $8 million (we'll call it a cap hit) puts him in the top five in the NHL.
Bettman is an attorney who came to the NHL from the NBA. League ownership created his position in 1993 following the dismissal of NHL president Gil Stein. His job, as instructed by his bosses, was to sell the game to the U.S. market, end labor unrest and bring the tenured NHL owners up to speed with a more modern business approach.
Two out of three ain't bad, right? Well maybe if part of the two included a better relationship with the players. Bettman is reviled by fans and players alike. With virtually no connection to the game that he oversees, Bettman rose to prominence in the NBA in the marketing and legal department. His law background helped him rise through the ranks, eventually becoming one of (NBA commissioner) David Stern's right hand men.
If ol' Gary is still the commissioner next year, it will be 20 years on the job. Personally, I felt that the forfeiture of an entire season was inexcusable. The fact that it could realistically happen again is a crime. Bettman has always seemed to put his interests, specifically those of the people who pay him, well above that of the sport he "commissions".
There are plenty of good things he can point to—expansion, revenue, Winter Classic, player safety, etc.—that paint him favorably. His legacy could still end up as being the guy who tried to kill hockey, twice, hard.
Finding his replacement shouldn't be too tough. After all, how hard was the search to find Bettman? He was hired in 1993 after being credited for the boom in the NBA. I'm sure Michael Jordan had nothing to do with that, right?
Here are 25 suggestions to replace Bettman and why. Most, like Bettman, have no prior connection to hockey, but are savvy businessmen. They have risen to their current status through hard work and opportunistic vision. Most importantly, could they do a worse job of promoting the sport they are hired to grow?
I'll try to list some who are qualified for the job and a few that I would call "author's choice". It will be up to you to decide which is which. I think you'll find more than a few acceptable candidates on my list. Enjoy now!