Gary Bettman. Most Canadian hockey fans hate him. I hate him. I think that he is among the worst commissioners in any professional sport ever.
When Bettman was in his early years in the office of the NHL Commissioner, the NHL had more fans than the NBA. Now, it's hard to even fathom a world where the NHL Playoffs are on all the time on ESPN, and the NBA is banished to Versus.
When Bettman took over, the league was fun and exciting. Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, and Ray Bourque were consistently on highlight reels.
But you know what happened. Over expansion. Moving towards the southern United States. Bettman was probably thinking "Hey, there's no teams south of Washington other than the Kings. The Kings are doin' pretty good, eh?
Let's move teams from healthy hockey markets like Quebec and Winnipeg and Minnesota and Hartford to places like Phoenix and Atlanta and Florida and North Carolina, eh? Most of those places have never seen actual ice, so that makes it an untapped market! It's a great idea!" And that's probably how it happened.
And I know what you're thinking. "Uh, rich dudes from those places bought those teams and moved them to those southern places."
But Bettman let that happen. And now, the Phoenix Coyotes are very close to moving to Hamilton, Ontario, and Bettman is trying to hinder them in any possible way.
Bettman allowed the Coyotes movement from Winnipeg after grassroots movements failed to reach the necessary $111 million operating capital pool. So why is he hindering this?
Probably because he still thinks that his business model for the NHL's southern expansion is actually helping the league. Or he has too much respect for the Buffalo Sabres.
Backing this thought is New York's two Senators, Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, writing letters to the NHL saying that the a franchise in Hamilton will significantly cut into the Sabres' fan base, resulting in a large potential loss for the Sabres.
But let's forget all that. I want this deal to go through wholeheartedly. Phoenix consistently draws low crowds, and a move to Hamilton would probably benefit the NHL.
There are probably more hockey fans in Hamilton than in Phoenix, and the results of the first year in Hamilton would be similar to the Oklahoma City Thunder's first season.
The team may suck, but their merchandise sales would probably go through the roof, and would probably sell out every game, even if they suck.
So, if Bettman cannot stop the Coyotes from moving to Hamilton, Bettman's failed southern expansion would take another hit, and Bettman would probably would very soon resign.
Maybe the NHL could get an actual Canadian in office.
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