NHL Lockout: 5 Reasons Gary Bettman Should Step Down Once New CBA Is Signed
Gary Bettman has earned respect and kudos from his employers.
The NHL owners know that Bettman has had a huge hand in dramatically increasing the league's revenues since the last lockout.
Bettman has been as responsible as any individual for helping those revenues grow to the $3.3 billion level, an amount that the commissioner reported in late May as the Stanley Cup Finals between the New Jersey Devils and Los Angeles Kings started (source: Sportsnet.ca).
But Bettman's title is not business czar or commissioner of the NHL owners. He is the commissioner of the entire league. He is supposed to represent the interests of the players and the owners. He is supposed to have some kind of vision for the sport beyond business.
Bettman does not meet the needs of the sport other than what he does from a business perspective.
Once a new Collective Bargaining Agreement is signed and the lockout is over, Bettman needs to step down from his position.
If he needs to be pushed out, that would be fine as well.
Bettman became commissioner of the NHL in 1993.
In his nearly 20-year reign, he has presided over three lockouts.
In 1994-95, the NHL lost nearly half of the regular season. The season was reduced to 48 games per team as the season did not get underway until January.
Then came the misery of the 2004-05 lockout. That work stoppage cost the league the entire 2004-05 season. No preseason. No regular season and no Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Eight years later, the league has locked out its players again.
The NFL locked out its players last year, but the stalemate came to a conclusion by the end of July. No regular season games were lost.
Major League Baseball has not had a work stoppage since 1994.
The NBA had lockouts in 1998-99 and last year. Both lockouts lasted well into the regular season, but they did not cost the entire season. The playoffs were played in full.
Bettman seems happy to sacrifice his full seasons to show players who's boss.
The NHL cancelled the Winter Classic well before it had to.
When the league pulled the plug on its biggest regular-season event on November 2, there were almost two full months to go before the event.
Instead of pushing hard in negotiations to come to an agreement to save the Winter Classic, the NHL seemed to cancel it with glee.
The NHL had moved into the void of New Year's Day big events and established itself. Now it is inviting another sport to take its place.
If Bettman thinks it will be easy to reclaim the day in 2014 or 2015, he may find that he has made a huge mistake.
Failed to Meet Expectations
When Bettman was hired as the NHL's commissioner in 1993, he replaced John Ziegler.
Technically, Ziegler was the league's president. He was not known as the commissioner.
However, when Bettman became the league's boss, the New York Times described the expectations that were placed on him as he took the job.
The first thing that reporter Joe Lapointe mentioned in the article was that Bettman was supposed to put an end to labor unrest.
Bettman has gone in the opposite direction.
More Than a Business
Bettman knows about the business of hockey.
He has increased revenues and brought about a $2 billion television deal with NBC.
Hockey had been devoid of a leader who could do that before Bettman.
However, there's a lot more to hockey than business.
Fans, players and coaches live and die with their sport. In Canada and many cities in the United States, fans follow their sport with religious fervor.
By locking players out and preventing teams from playing games, Bettman has shown he does not know his sport's constituency and he doesn't care about their feelings.
To Bettman, it's only about business.
Poor Front Man
Every year, Bettman hands the Stanley Cup to the league champion.
Every year, Bettman gets booed.
It is the biggest moment of the year. The champion has earned the Stanley Cup by going through four rounds of playoffs and emerging as the top team.
It doesn't matter who wins the Stanley Cup. It's always Bettman who hands the cup to the winning captain, and it's always Bettman who is greeted with a full-throated boo. It's an embarrassing moment for the sport of hockey.
NFL fans don't ridicule Roger Goodell when he hands out the Vince Lombardi Trophy at the end of the Super Bowl.
No other leader gets treated like Bettman. The fans are sick of him, and they don't want him running their sport any more.
It's time for Bettman to step down.