Towards the end of July, NHL.com reported some interesting numbers that had been published in SportsBusiness Journal. They reported that NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman was paid $7.5 million for his services to the league in 2010-2011.
What caught my attention was that prior to the lockout, Mr. Bettman was making $3.77 million per season.
So since he oversaw the lockout that caused an entire season to be lost, Bettman's salary has increased 98 percent. That's right. The amount of money he makes has nearly doubled in six years. But surely there must be some merit to that increase, correct?
When Bettman was making $3.77 million, the NHL was generating a cool $2.1 billion in revenue. So for him to be giving himself such large raises, the league must really have increased revenues, right?
Well, not so much.
The NHL has seen a 28 percent increase in revenues, jumping from the $2.1 billion to $2.7 billion. Considerable growth, especially considering the impact of the lockout.
But why the doubling in salary, Bettman? That's in the same ballpark as Roger Goodell and David Stern. That frankly doesn't make sense to me.
But a problem isn't a problem unless you have a solution. So I am going to propose a handful of things that Bettman's salary could be better used for. Lets see what $7.5 million can get us besides a Gary Bettman.
As a side note, this is all in good fun. I have no idea how much any of these things really cost. It's just for a few laughs. Relax and enjoy.
I think that $7.5 million could buy several teams their own fleet of ice girls.
And who doesn't love ice girls? Sure, cheerleaders are for football, but these ladies are different. They sweep up hats after a trick and...well, they cheer for hockey teams.
Use the money to fund a reality TV show to find teams like Detroit a crew of ice girls. (Please, like you wouldn't DVR that.)
I haven't been to a pro hockey game since I turned the legal drinking age, but I am going to assume that beer choices are somewhat limited in NHL arenas.
Miller Lite or Coors Lite? Flip a coin. Doesn't matter.
With Bettman's $7.5 million, the league could negotiate contracts with local brew houses and spread the good cheer of local beer. Who wouldn't love to watch some top-notch playoff action with a crafted IPA in their hand?
Don't feel like waiting in line for 30 minutes to grab a Coke?
Then grab one out of the vending machines that Bettman's $7.5 million could outfit at least a few arenas with. After all, the only thing that beats a $7 dollar coke is a $7 dollar Coke that they didn't have to pay anyone to serve you.
So the few million wouldn't put much of a dent in what it'll take to keep the Islanders on Long Island, technically.
But maybe it could be used to hire some lobbyists and people to better voice the stance of the team. If they can't get a bill to pass when the owner puts up all the dough, then the Lighthouse Project might need a better publicist.
Pick a random NHL city during a playoff game and start chucking bills out of the hatch. This could really help the economy in the area, and would create a lot of goodwill for the league and the brass.
Of course, some of it would need to go to the police, who would help prevent ensuing riots as well. We'll call it 50/50.
If the success of the team up between the NHL and HBO is any indication, there is a huge audience of hockey fans just itching for some original content. Sure, watching the same playoff series over, and over, and over, and over, and over for a week is a lot of fun...
But how about some in-depth, ESPN-caliber stuff?
I know that is a four-letter word around the NHL, but you get the idea. Some Behind the Lines-type specials. More exposure for hockey players as people could only do the league good. And no, sticking some web-cams in a radio studio and broadcasting a three-hour show doesn't count. Sorry.
The Winter Classic is one of the most watched NHL games of the year, and the exposure to non-traditional hockey fans is great.
But why do you think they tune in?
Because they know about it.
It's been advertised during programming outside of hockey games, and for whatever reason, the game caught their eye. But what if the NHL pushed the Stanley Cup Finals like this?
What if Game 7 between Boston and Vancouver had as many viewers as the Classic? The passion is evident and contagious. Get a non-hockey fan to watch a game for 30 minutes with someone who can explain a few things, and you probably have a new fan.
I understand the Classic is a huge draw, but the hockey season is long and full of great games. How about getting those some ad time outside of Versus?
Use the $7.5 million to lure in a hockey mind that understands the business aspect of the game as well. I don't think it has to be so drastically weighted in one direction—towards the business end.
I know the league needs to make money, but I don't think that a bozo who didn't watch the game until he became the Commish is the right guy for the job. If the ice girls reality TV show was a hit, follow it up with a Who Wants to be The Next Commissioner of the NHL? prime-time special, four-part event.
It'd be fun, and at least we could get through the Stanley Cup presentation without the booing.