If NHL fans were to write Gary Bettman a letter in the midst of the continuing NHL Lockout—you know, the one that threatens to cancel another season and leave hockey fans wondering why there aren't line changes in NBA games—I imagine it would go something like this:
Dear Gary Bettman,
Please go away. Seriously, we're over you. We've been over you for years. We literally have no idea why you're still around, but you've caused us nothing but sadness and pain. It's not us, it's you.
If the NHL was "The Walking Dead," you'd be Lori. If the league was the "The Phantom Menace," you'd be Jar Jar Binks. If hockey was the Beatles, you'd be Yoko Ono.
But enough of the analogies (we get carried away with those sometimes). Really, our wishes our quite simple: GO AWAY!
Pretty much everyone in the United States and Canada except for the NHL owners.
Seriously, everyone wants Bettman out. Bill Simmons of Grantland wrote an excellent piece on Bettman and very concisely summed up the many failings of the commish.
The case against Bettman in one sentence: The NHL sacrificed an entire season so they could reimagine their entire salary structure … and only seven years later, that "reimagining" went so poorly that they might have to sacrifice a second season because they need a mulligan.
That's all you need to know. I didn't even need to bring up the league's botched television deals, overexpansion, poorly picked markets, belated acknowledgement of the concussion epidemic, or more incredibly, how they stupidly forgot to limit the length of contracts.
Meanwhile, it might not just be the fans and rational human beings who are growing weary of Bettman's Reign of Folly.
In a piece on how Ed Snider of the Philadelphia Flyers may be slowly leading a movement to resolve these talks rather than drag them out, Frank Seravalli of the Philadelphia Daily News suggests that the owners may move toward ending this lockout:
Put simply: Snider and the rest of the NHL's owners were promised a big win by Bettman, with player concessions on revenue division and contracting rights. The best they'll get now is a small win in revenue split—coupled with a demoralized fan base and all-important corporate sponsors that are ready to quit.
A source familiar with Snider's thinking characterized it as: "If this is the deal we are going to get, what's the point of dragging this out?"
Reading the tea leaves, if the owners were expecting a big win, don't end up getting it and lose revenue from the lost portion of the season, you have to think Bettman will be on shaky ground at best with the NHL's Board of Governors.
Does anyone have any faith in Bettman's leadership at this point? Did anyone think taking two weeks off from negotiations was anything less than a stupid suggestion? Has anybody enjoyed the three labor stoppages under his watch?
At what point do the owners look at the man who is widely despised by their fan bases and say, "Hmm, perhaps this man doesn't best represent our product..." and finally replace him?
Maybe they'll just need to see the decline in popularity of their sport continue. It doesn't seem inconceivable that a league such as the English Premier League—growing in popularity here in the States in recent years—could help the sport of soccer render hockey even less relevant.
Yes, the NHL made a ton of money in revenues last season. But, uh, that structure wasn't financially stable, or so we're told. So again we ask, is Bettman really good for the game of hockey?
Like the majority of NHL fans, I say he isn't, and it's time for his tenure as commissioner to end. It's not us, or the players, or even all of the owners.
It's him. And he needs to go.
Hit me up on Twitter—my tweets predict crazy things like Baylor upsets. Seriously.