NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman wriggles under fire

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman is under fire – and it looks good on him, doesn’t it?

Gary Bettman

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman has spent a lot of his efforts lately trying to save the doomed Phoenix Coyotes. Great time management, Gary! (The Canadian Press image)

Sponsors are hating on the NHL. The Goldwater Institute, in Arizona, has said enough to Gary’s pet-project management. And hockey fans in Winnipeg and Quebec are speaking out louder and louder these days. But Gary’s a lawyer, which means he’ll wriggle out of this jam – won’t he?

This current firestorm intensified when it became apparent, last week, that the Phoenix Coyotes were going to have an even tougher time staying in the desert. Essentially, Bettman’s NHL has backed a deal that would see taxpayers contribute $100 million dollars toward the Coyotes’ efforts to remain in Glendale. Must be nice to think you have that kind of power, right Gary? And, when the consumer watchdog group, The Goldwater Institute, stepped in and expressed its disapproval of the deal – saying it was unlawful to provide corporate welfare in Arizona – little Gary had the audacity to fire back.

Winnipeg Jets' fans

That fact that, 16 years after their team left Manitoba, there are still Jets' fans everywhere says all you need to know about the city's devotion to its former team

There’s an old saying – If you have neither the facts, nor the law, pound the table. Gary is pounding his little table hard. After all, for the $7.2 million in salary Bettman rakes in from the league’s owners every year, he’s got to do something! And that five-year contract extension Bettman received from the NHL in early March has his chest puffed out even further.

“I quite frankly don’t know who the people (at the Goldwater Institute) report to or are accountable to,” Bettman said, “but it fascinates me that whoever is running the Goldwater Institute can actually substitute their judgment for that of the Glendale City Council by, in effect, overturning a duly enacted resolution of the city and one that was enacted in public session.” Wow, what a steaming pile of garbage. He knows darned well to whom the Goldwater Institute reports – it’s to the taxpayers of Arizona. And we can’t have them informed or protected in this fiasco, can we Gary?

Then, to turn up the heat even more, towering Bruins’ defenceman Zdeno Chara decided that Canadiens’ winger Max Pacioretty was not going to drive past him at any cost. That cost, of course, was Pacioretty’s brain and spine. And don’t tell me that Chara didn’t know what he was doing. Did he know what the result to Pacioretty’s long-term health would be? No way he could. Did he know that Pacioretty was flying and, by cutting him off into the boards, there would be a sudden impact? You bet he did.

Max Pacioretty

After Zdeno Chara's high-speed maneuver, Max Pacioretty's season ended looking like this

Air Canada and, now, Via Rail have sent letters to the NHL expressing their displeasure. That’s virtually unprecedented in the world of pro sports corporate sponsorship. The train line wrote, “In Via Rail’s opinion, the NHL’s quick and ineffective ruling on the Pacioretty/Chara incident of last Tuesday is totally unacceptable as it does nothing to try to reverse the alarming trend of vicious hits that have sidelined some of the game’s greatest talents.” Holy cow, who does Via think it is – wanting to know that its sponsorship money is going to an organization it feels is worthwhile?

Old Gary’s like a duck these days. Swimming calmly on top and paddling like hell underneath. Look, Gary, there are easy solutions here. Stand up and announce that the NHL is done with the 15-year Frankenstein-monster-of-an-experiment in Arizona. Let the team simply go back to Winnipeg. And start making players, like Chara accountable for their actions. All their actions!

Oh, but wait, that would mean you’d have to admit your incredible day-to-day smugness and pomposity is misguided and misplaced. Forget I even mentioned it.

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2 Responses to “NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman wriggles under fire”

  1. David says:

    Hear, hear. What an amazing game it is that it survives the Bettmans, the Cherrys and some of the other asses who ply their trade within the sport. On your first point–Phoenix–I attended the Flames/Coyotes game a couple of days ago. Even with the number of red sweaters in attendance–a huge majority–the building was more than a third empty, that on a night when one of their better draws was in town. How many are in attendance when that longstanding rivalry, Atlanta-Phoenix beckons? And talk about a mausoleum–despite a great building and a pretty good performance by the Coyotes (especially goaltender Bryzgalov) the place was, as Leonard Cohen might say, “deader than Heaven on a Saturday night. Yeah, Gary keep yapping about Phoenix staying in the desert–at least if you’re doing that it will keep you from talking about the subject about which you know exactly nothing. That would be hockey. Bigmouth’s comments about the Chara fiasco and the league’s (mis)handling of it are spot on and really need no help from me.
    Well done BM.

  2. Big Mouth says:

    I think when the Coyotes moved to Phoenix, it made some sense to investigate that market. Denver had recently gained a team and was nearby. Los Angeles and Anaheim were on the west coast. But it’s crystal clear that the Phoenix market is not long-term viable for the NHL. Dragging out the inevitable is just stubborn and pigheaded…and very, very small-picture thinking.

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