The NHL officially locked out their players at midnight on September 15. The lockout is the second one this decade after the previous lockout wiped out the entire 2004-05 season, and it once again destroys any momentum that the sport had in becoming relevant in the United States' sports landscape.
Usually in these situations, the players are at fault because they have ridiculous demands of revenue, benefits and whatever else their union leader wants.
Well, I'm here to tell you that's not the case. In short, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman must be relieved of his duties as soon as possible.
Bettman has done his best to ruin professional hockey since he took over in February 1993. Granted, his ideas may have looked great on paper, but the backlash of his decisions have caused the hole that the NHL finds itself in.
Bettman's first horrible decision was the idea of southern expansion. When Bettman took over, his first idea was to "Americanize" the sport of hockey and create markets in the southern part of the United States.
The problem with this was that Bettman took hockey out of profitable, traditional hockey markets in Canada to do so.
The Quebec Nordiques, Winnepeg Jets, Minnesota North Stars and Hartford Whalers all took moves to the south at the beginning of Bettman's tenure, and the NHL has found itself in financial trouble since that point.
While the Colorado Avalanche and Dallas Stars have been very successful moves for the league, the NHL hasn't found similar success in other markets such as Phoenix where the city of Glendale has been forced to pay $25 million annually to keep the team at Jobing.com Arena.
Expansion has also been more of a curse than a blessing as well during Bettman's tenure. The biggest failure occurred in Atlanta, where the Thrashers replaced the Flames (who moved to Calgary after the 1979-80 season).
The Thrashers ranked toward the bottom of the league in attendance during their existence, and the league could not afford to have another market that was doing poor financially. The NHL tried to find an owner to keep the team in Atlanta but couldn't do so, paving the way for the return of the Winnepeg Jets.
Another problem with Bettman's tenure has been national exposure in the United States. The irony here is that's what the southern expansion project was supposed to do, but Bettman and the league threw that down the toilet when they inked a television deal with Versus (now NBC Sports Network).
Versus gave the NHL exactly what they wanted coming out of the 2004-05 lockout in paying $207.5 million over three years in exchange for national exposure.
The former broadcast partner, who had shelled out $600 million over five seasons prior to the lockout, was ESPN, and they were not happy with the decision to go to the smaller cable network. The network responded by virtually pulling all coverage of the NHL from their network.
In fact, ESPN's website Sunday morning had buried the lockout into a small line on their headlines area in favor of Stanford's upset over USC.
Then there's the matter of the lockout. This will be Bettman's third lockout since the beginning of his tenure, and the NHL has been pounded into the ground each and every time.
At this point, fan support for the product may go to an all-time low if these labor issues are not resolved quickly. If that's the case, then Bettman should be relieved of his duties.
Yes, there have been labor disputes before but those sports have always bounced back stronger than ever (including Bettman's counterpart David Stern of the NBA which may have had their most profitable season in league history despite skipping 16 games due to their own lockout).
Bettman's antics have gotten old, and the NHL needs a new face to return themselves to relevancy post-lockout.
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