Chronicling Gary Bettman's Rocky Tenure as NHL Commissioner

Charles L. GareCorrespondent IMarch 6, 2017

What can I say about Gary Bettman that the world out there hasn't already said, he is not well liked. Apparently he has a radio talk show where they screen all the callers so he will not have anyone who disagrees with him.

That's pretty neat if I do say so my self, a completely agreeable talk show interesting, no arguments! Gary started his tenure as the NHL's Commissioner in 1993 until present, Bettman is a lawyer by trade.

Before the NHL, he was a senior executive in the NBA league office for twelve years. Gary started this job almost immediately dealing with labour strife because unhappy owners did not like the 1992 CBA.

It was said that a big part of Bettman's work as commissioner was to "Americanize" the game, and they felt he didn't appreciate the place hockey occupied in Canada's culture.

The Owners voted to lockout the players at the beginning of the 1994/95 season, the end result was the lose of half the season that year,The playoffs in 1994 were the most exciting in NHL history.

So the first few years of Bettman's tenure in the NHL dealt with labour unrest.

Getting a national television contract was a top priority for Bettman, the lockout got the new partnership with Fox off to a rocky start. Under Bettman the NHL became a global sport with preseason games in Europe, and regular season games played in Japan.

During this so called global outreach the NHL All-Star game took on a new look, with North American players taking on European players. This format had great interest at first but grew tiresome, and the East vs the West returned after five years.

Gary in an attempt to draw more fans was a big part of making rule changes that saw overtime changed to 4-on-4, awarding one point to the losing team. This did not go over well with hockey traditionalist's, economics became a major issue during the Bettman era.

Smaller teams where forced to move. The Winnipeg Jets where one of the small market teams that moved south, along with the Quebec Nordics, and this angered Canadians. Meanwhile the six teams remaining in Canada since Bettman took over as commissioner, have struggled to compete.

With Montreal being the only team to win the Stanley Cup, and no Canadian team making the finals for 10 years until 2004.

With the NHL leaving its loyal Canadian fan base and going south in search of new fans in  such places as Dallas, Anaheim, Miami, Phoenix, Carolina, Nashville, and Columbus received NHL franchises for the first time.

While the league returned to Denver, Atlanta and Minnesota, growing from 24 teams in 1994 to 30 in 2000.  The NHL realigned its self going from four to six divisions in 1998, with some of the new teams struggling to establish a fan base.

This caused critics to say the NHL had grown to fast, thus hurting its financial solvency.

The league was in another lockout, with owners wanting the players to except a salary cap, and also revenue sharing to help struggling teams such as Los Angeles, Pittsburgh, Ottawa, and Buffalo, who declared bankruptcy.

Unlike the 1994 lockout Bettman was willing to sacrifice the entire season, and that was exactly what happened.

The NHL became the first league to lose an entire season due to a work stoppage. Bettman and the owners were not going to blink, and eventually there was a settlement with salaries capped at 54 percent of league revenues, meaning the cap could go up or down depending on how well the league was doing.

After the dust settled the NHL had to win back its fan base, so Bettman came up with new rules to speed up the game. Two line passes, enforcing holding, and players could no longer deliberately shoot the puck into the stands. Bettman also took away ties adding a shoot out at the end of a five minute overtime.

The lockout caused a lot of damage, and the league could not get a deal in place with ESPN, thus leaving them with Outdoor Life Network. OLN had big plans for the hockey and eventually they changed their brand to Versus, but this all hurt the NHL's exposure.

This left them with a 1.1 viewer rating in game three of the 2007 Stanley Cup finals between the Ducks and the Senators.

As the NHL moves on Commissioner Bettman has continued the leagues Global outreach with Los Angeles Kings and the Anaheim Ducks starting the 2007/08 season in London. With future plans which included Prague and Stockholm 2008, also outdoor games have gained a foothold.

Pittsburgh and Buffalo on New Years day, a game broadcast on NBC had the highest rating of an NHL game in 10 years.

This has now prompted the NHL to have future outdoor games, with Detroit and Chicago being the latest. Gary Bettman's job as the commissioner started out rocky and has in many ways continued in that vain, Canadian hockey fans have felt ignored by him with his seeming lack of interest in the fact that the game is initially a Canadian game.

When the draft took place in Columbus, OH, Bettman was widely booed, and as a hockey fan I feel the Mr. Bettman is not a very popular amongst the tradionalist's who bleed hockey 12 months a year.

Also I want to make a note that this material that I used here had to be looked up, as I don't know Mr Bettman personally I did know some of his history but not enough to write an article regarding his position as the commissioner of the NHL.