Since the 1994 Stanley Cup Finals (Gary Bettman's first full season), the NHL has been on a slow downward tumble into the abyss of the American sporting culture. This year is one of the most exciting playoffs since Gary Bettman (aka: The Worst Commissioner in Any Sport, Ever) took office. But don't worry—I'm sure that Bettman will find some way to screw it up.
Why in the world would someone even think to change this? For 30 years home teams wore white and away teams wore dark. Now, in an obvious attempt to make fans shell out for another sweater, Bettman has taken away years of history. I still get confused sometimes when I see the Bruins in black on TV and immediately think they are away until I see the gigantic B at center ice.
This was the nail in the coffin for Bettman's career. He could not even get an agreement to play the 2004-05 season. This move caused the NHL to fall off the sports landscape.
With the instigator rule and refs who are forced to jump in if there is even a little bit of contact, Bettman has curbed the amount of fighting in the game drastically. While I don't think that the NHL should revert back to the Big Bad Bruins and the Broad Street Bullies of the '70s, fighting is as much a part of hockey as ice. Let them slug it out every once in a while.
Prior to Bettman becoming commissioner in 1993, there were 24 teams; now there are 30 teams. From 1991-2000, nine teams were added. The talent level became so heavily diluted due to the rapid expansion that it ended up causing the scoring and action of the game to hit almost an all-time low.
Changing the names of the divisions and conferencea was pretty much the first thing that Bettman did once he became commissioner. Not only did he change the names, but he also got rid of the divisional playoffs. The divisional playoffs fostered rivalries between the inter-divisional clubs and made the Stanley Cup playoffs the best playoff in pro sports.
Why in the world would you move a team out of a market that lives and breathes for them? I know that the Canadian dollar was pretty poor when Quebec and Winnipeg lost their teams, but if the Expos and Blue Jays could survive that drop in the dollar, then hockey certainly would as well.
The move of Quebec to Colorado is somewhat understandable since Denver is a hockey market. But Winnipeg to Phoenix was just idiotic. The next commissioner should make it a priority to have eight teams in Canada.
ESPN has a monopoly on sports. Like it or not, any sport has to be on ESPN if they want to be taken seriously. Not only are they not on ESPN, but they are barely on national television at all. NBC has one game a week. The other network, Versus, is not even in some standard cable packages.
The other Big Four sports make billions of dollars a year off of their TV contracts. The NHL makes about $200 million.
I honestly did not think that this was possible, but as I have found out, nothing is impossible for Bettman. The number of rule changes that he has put in place, along with the gross over-expansion that he has initiated, has caused the league to become much more boring in recent years.
Unfortunately for Bettman, Alex Ovechkin, Sidney Crosby, and other young studs have finally come up and made it exciting again.
There should have never been this number of teams in cities that never have ice. I do admit that hockey needs to be in some Southern hockey cities, but the fact that the South has its own division shows that there are way too many Southern markets with hockey. It is a Northern sport that can never be greatly successful in the South.
My theory was to why Bettman took the job as commissioner was because his boss in the NBA, David Stern, was starting to get worried that the NHL might pass the NBA as the third most popular sport in America. So, Stern asked Bettman to take the job in the NHL and sabotage the league so badly that it could never recover. Hopefully, I am wrong and Bettman is just a bonehead.