NHL Lockout: What Will Gary Bettman's Legacy Be as NHL Commissioner?

Steve Silverman@@profootballboyFeatured ColumnistSeptember 24, 2012

Gary Bettman's hard-line policies has put his sport at risk yet again.
Gary Bettman's hard-line policies has put his sport at risk yet again.Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Gary Bettman is clearly an emotional man.

He is also a man who does not understand his job.

He is thoroughly confrontational and obviously willing to take on players in a battle over finances. He wants to win that battle so he can make more money for those who keep him employed.

Bettman has his position as the commissioner of the NHL at the pleasure of the NHL owners. They can fire him if they choose. As a result, Bettman works to make them money.

He does this by increasing television revenues and getting other outside income. He does this by limiting how much the league has to pay its players in salary.

So, Bettman may have the title of NHL commissioner, but he's really just an advocate for the NHL owners.

He has lost sight; he is supposed to make decisions in the best interests of the sport as a whole, not just the owners'.

If Bettman were looking out for the sport's best interests, he would not be presiding over the third lockout (source: Montreal Gazette) since he became commissioner.

That's a big part of his legacy. Bettman was hired in 2003, and a big part of the charge he received when he was hired was to keep labor peace (source: New York Times).

He has failed miserably at that part of his job.

His first foray into labor relations came during the 1994-95 season, when players were locked out by the league and the season was reduced to 48 regular-season games.

That was hard for all concerned, but it was just a taste of what the NHL would offer the sports world 10 years later when the entire 2004-05 season was cancelled. There was no regular season. There was no All-Star game. There were no Stanley Cup playoffs.

There was no hockey until the start of the 2005-06 season.

The Collective Bargaining Agreement between the NHL and the NHLPA expired on Sept. 15, and on Sept. 16 at 12:01 a.m., NHL players were locked out.

It's all conjecture as to when the lockout will end this time around. Many believe that the games will begin prior to the end of the year so the NHL does not lose the lucrative Winter Classic, but there are reports that Bettman is willing to cancel that event as soon as November to prevent the NHLPA from using it as a bargaining chip (source: CBSSports.com).

Bettman has clearly done some positive things. Most notable is the 10-year, $2 billion television deal the league has with the NBC Sports Group (source: Bloomberg.com). While this is a small deal compared to the other major league sports, it's far more than the NHL has ever been able to procure in the past.

The league has also made forays into Europe by having its member teams play regular-season and exhibition games overseas.

However, with a third lockout underway and no way of knowing how long it will last, it seems Bettman will be best known for the damaging and horrific labor relations he developed with the NHLPA.

He can only hope that it doesn't lead to the ruination of the NHL.


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