As we conclude Week 4 of the NHL Lockout, hockey fans across North America are all asking themselves the same question: How could this happen again? Point your fingers at the worst commissioner in professional sports, Gary Bettman.
For those of you familiar with his tenure running the NHL, there are numerous reasons you could make that argument.
From his incessant need to "expand" the game in unsuccessful markets to his failure to bring hockey back to ESPN, Bettman has shown time and again he's not the right person for the sport. Yet, that's just the tip of the iceberg.
We're now in the midst of the third labor dispute he's overseen since he was hired in February 1993. Apparently, he's learned nothing from the first two.
What makes this even more infuriating for fans is Bettman's attitude. His smugness when describing the issues at hand only adds to his unlikability. He acts as if fans care that the owners may have a point about some things.
He can say the teams are losing money and they all need to work together—and he may be right. He can point to all the issues and say the players need to give in on this and sacrifice that—and he may be right. But Bettman's job is not just to be right. His job is to give the labor peace to his league and prosperity to his owners. And he has consistently failed at both—the latter by his own admission.
Bettman's accountability is lackluster at best. If teams are still losing money, it's his fault. You'd think more owners would realize that.
Sure, some will point to the fact the NHL generated a record $3.3 billion in revenues last year. Yet, more would agree that was in spite of Bettman and not because of him.
If we look at the other three commissioners in North American professional sports, none of their unpopularity is as rampant as Bettman's.
Roger Goodell has angered fans with some of his decisions (see replacement officials), but those have usually been more team-specific than something league-wide. He avoided any work stoppage this past summer and the NFL continues to dominate the American sports landscape.
Bud Selig's reign in MLB hasn't been without its ups and downs, most notably the strike that cut short the 1994 season and the "steroid era." However, unlike Bettman, Selig's public appearances aren't marred by a chorus of boos.
Only NBA commissioner David Stern nears the level of animosity hockey fans have for Gary Bettman. Who do you think Bettman learned his arrogant, off-putting ways from? He worked under Stern for 12 years before being hired by the NHL. Both men have a knack for always seeming to have a hidden agenda when they speak.
While we endure another disaster of his doing, people have finally begun to publicly wonder how Bettman still has his job.
The quicker the NHL realizes he shouldn't, the better off the league and hockey fans across the world will be.