Gary Bettman is one of the most despised men in sports right now—and for good reason. He is presiding over his third NHL lockout, and after reducing the 1994-95 season to 48 games and canceling the 2004-05 season, the 2012-13 season is hanging by a thread.
This week, Bettman and NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr sat out of negotiations, as six owner and 18 players filled their spots. Progress was made. But as soon as Bettman and Fehr reentered the process, the negotiations blew up (via Yahoo.com).
Is this man good for hockey? You come to your own conclusion.
Though he orchestrated this lockout, Bettman has done some positive things for the NHL. Revenues have increased (h/t Sportsnet.ca) dramatically under his watch, and he has brought the league a respectable 10-year, $2 billion television contract with NBC Sports.
In addition, changes have been made on the ice that were designed to make the game more entertaining. Not all of those changes—such as removing the red line for the purpose of allowing two-line passes—have worked out as intended, but he has tried to bring more offense to the game.
He is also concerned about head shots and player safety (h/t NHL.com).
So, not everything about Bettman is evil. But no matter what he accomplishes from a business perspective, he has been harmful to the sport of hockey. And he's put the sport at risk by failing to live up to his original job description.
When Bettman was hired in 1993, one of his duties was to bring the sport labor peace (via New York Times). However, he has done just the opposite. He has pulled the plug at the drop of a hat and locked players out whenever he has had the chance.
Bettman is an American businessman who learned the business of sports while working for David Stern's National Basketball Association. So he apparently thinks of his sport as a business.
His actions show no regard for a sport that is so vitally important to a huge percentage of Canada's population and may mean just as much to a smaller percentage of American fans.
Popularity is not necessarily an indicator of whether a leader is doing a good job or not, but Bettman is greeted with boos and catcalls every time he makes an appearance to hand out the Stanley Cup and Conn Smythe Trophy.
Bettman has made a mess out of the game, and it may never recover.
He has had a huge influence on the game of hockey, but it has not earned him a spot in the Hockey Hall of Fame.
He should not be allowed in.