Bettman’s Hiring Was The First Domino to Fall in the NHL

This is a really divided topic regarding who is to blame. To be honest, every facet of hockey including the fans must accept some blame in this lockout but NHL hockey’s decline really started when Gary Bettman was hired.It is no secret that at least 90% of the hockey elite and fans do not like Gary Bettman and who can blame them. This is a man who expanded the NHL from 24 to 30 teams in the 1990’s. In principle, spreading the fan base of hockey to new markets was and still is a great idea but the application was ignorant. There is no need for 2 Florida teams (1 is fine to support the Canadian Snowbirds and the small US fan base there), Nashville and Atlanta. When the NHL was quoting their operational losses as a league, I will bet that 4 out of the 6 expansion teams recorded losses. Sure they provided the league with a quick $80 million in expansion fees but there was no long-term viability making a short term gain a long-term loss.

Carolina and Phoenix are relocated teams. Have they prospered at all? What kind of legacy was left in Carolina when they made it to the final? You can draw your own conclusions, the fact remains that there are at least 5-6 teams in the NHL that must die. They are hurting the bottom line and diluting the talent pool.

Forbes made an excellent point about the talent pool that was diluted due to the rapid expansion. “To meet the growing demand for players, team rosters were often filled with European skaters with only a fraction of the passion for the game that the Canadian players have. The NHL product lost some of its appeal to its rank and file.” Now there are some very entertaining Europeans and Russians out there, not to mention some flash and grit from the U.S. but when you see a large majority of the Europeans fade away during the playoffs when hockey is at its pinnacle, it’s a very true statement.

One of Bettman’s goals was to obtain a major TV contract. $60 million for 40 games from ESPN is pathetic. Well, nothing from NBC is even worse and due to the failed negotiations, the NHL will most likely have to pay for a US TV deal for exposure. For years now, the fans have been complaining about the pace and style of game. Not one 50 goal scorer last year. What ever happened to the days of 70+ goal scorers? The trap combined with obstruction and ill informed rule changes such as automatic off-sides and moving the nets has ruined the game. What did Bettman do to counteract this, NOTHING. All I heard was cost certainty for quite sometime. Instead of trying to improve the on ice product as part of his agenda, he completely ignored this. I doubt he feels that his is even a significant problem. This just goes to show how much he cares about the game. With his mentality, even if he got his cap, it would still be an increasingly difficult product to market. Sure you can say that some research was put into it and the use of the AHL as a guinea pig, but I have never heard Bettman address this issue with any kind of practicality.

This brings us to the present day and the cancellation of the season and recently failed negotiations. It does take two to tango without a question but when and if the NHL resumes, what will be left? Major sponsors such as Budweiser have already left, quite a few greats of the game Yzerman, Chelios, Hull, Messier to name a few will most likely retire without ceremony and a very reduced fan base.

There is no question Bettman must go. He was never a hockey man or even a fan of the game. Sure he is an Ivy League grad who should prosper in business but a pick up hockey player with a Business Minor would do much better because at least that person can recognize the fundamental problems beyond the economics.

56 Responses to Bettman’s Hiring Was The First Domino to Fall in the NHL

  1. wingsrock34 says:

    didnt Karmonos say the Cans lost money every year im not 100% sure but i think he did, so this quote from Jim Rutherford dosent make sense.

    “I don’t understand why people think we would leave.”

    Rutherford claims Raleigh is a profitable market, more so than that of Hartford.

    “We moved from Hartford to a very good market with a great building, and [for people to suggest] we might do it again does not make any sense,” he said.

    “The highest revenue we ever had in Hartford is half of what it is here. It’s a totally different situation.”

    two thing if they lose money every year how is the highest they ever had in Hartford half of what they get now (unless ur working w/ neg. #’s) and people say they should move b/c us real hockey fans dont want crappy teams that are also in bad markets

  2. Aetherial says:

    Here is a newsflash to all the Bettman bashers…

    Believe it or not, the OWNERS wanted this stuff. They wanted those big expansion fees.

    Bettman does not have absolute power over everything and he doesn’t have jedi mind powers.

    I think he has to go because the NHL has declined, period, and this lockout has been a joke and a serious black eye on the league and the bottom line is you can’t fire 30 owners, so you fire the commisioner.

    Just like coaches get the axe first 🙂

    To blame him for everything though is wrong.

  3. GilaMonster says:

    i know there are many problems in the league but i really honestly believe that contraction does not have to be an option. the majority of these teams that are talked about when contraction is discussed (phoenix,carolina,atlanta,etc.) are teams that want ”cost certainty”. the owners,gary bettman, hell even i believe that with the right system in place any team in the league can be competitive. if these teams are competitive THEY WILL FILL THE STANDS. just because they are small market does not mean they can not compete and that is the main reason a lot of owners want a cap. of course the big ones do not want one because they have been willing to lose money to win for years. if i am not mistaken the year the ducks swept the wings in the first round (2002-2003) the red wings either lost money or made very,very little. they counted on playoff revenue to meet the bottom line. as long as that still occurs then these small market teams will suffer. the league just wants to have a system where money is not as important to compete. and player development is not overlooked (cough,rangers,cough)

  4. Freeze says:

    Don’t believe anything Pete Karmanos says. He’s notorious for not knowing what is going on inside Compuware or with his hockey team’s operations. The guy is permanently out to lunch.

  5. wingedim says:

    I’ve never really like Bettman for basically all of the reasons you’ve listed in your article. However, you do have to give the guy credit for stepping up and actually pulling the plug on the season. I don’t think there were a lot of people out there who thought he had the stones to do it. From what I’ve heard and read Bob G most certainly didn’t think he did and as a result pretty much floundered during his press conference because he was in shock for the eventuality he never believed would happen.

    I think both sides need to axe their ‘leaders’. Goodenow while a shrewd negotiator, has proven (in my mind anyway) that he didn’t want the input from the players and went blindly ahead. The result is apparently a split (two or three way dependant on who you believe) union that is now in the midst of tearing itself apart.

    The main reason I feel that both sides need to be axed is that they (apparently) waited until the final 72 hours to seriously make any attempt at negotiating a workable deal as the fan base for the league continued to plummet and die hard fans like ourselves demanded they get an agreement done. Both sides have been and continue to be out of touch with what the actual situation of the league is.

  6. kicksave856 says:

    Well, I agree that Bettman is a sharp guy, but he doesn’t have the kind of smarts that it takes to be the commissioner of the NHL. Book smarts, yes. Hockey smarts, a resounding NO.

    All of this other crap aside, why couldn’t he slowly integrate some of the rule changes into the game over the past few years, when he (and everyone else) saw the product suffering on the ice? I mean, he knows certain rule changes that are obviously going to get implemented somewhere down the line. I heard that he gets a lot of gripes out of owners or players when it comes to certain aspects of these major rule changes that people always bring up. But they are always mentioned in a package of rule changes to be implemented all at the same time.

    Who are the players or owners to try to veto a single rule change? What if, at the start of last season, GB would have said, “Ok, this year we go back to the old offsides rule”? Who would have complained over one rule change to get used to? And what if the season before that, he had said, “I think this year we will move the nets back 2 feet”, and the year before that “If you lay your stick on an opponent in their offensive zone, you go to the box”, etc.

    I dunno. Just something I just thought of while reading on the site.


    “People PAY to see 2 line offside calls!”

    “Why shouldn’t we let the goalie equipment keep growing? Why do you think we still let them wander behind the net? There’s your opportunity to score right there. Duh!”

    “Clutching and grabbing works fine in the NFL.”

    “I can’t wait until this whole lockout is over so I can move forward with my plans to put 2 teams in New Mexico!”

  7. 19Yzerman says:

    Fair or not Bettman had to be the man who annonced the cancellation of an NHL season. I don’t know about any of you but, if it were me I would not have done that ” No Way”. I would have told everyone in the meeting. You guys better find some agreable terms here because I am not going to our fans and the media to present them with this “The Darkest Day in Hockey History” because a hand full of you don’t agree here.

    Shoot the messenger? Thats up to you.

    It will be impossible for me to forget his announcement of the cancellation of a season no matter what he does to improve the NHL. I dont care if we see the NHL become the #1 sporting market and gets better ratings than monday night football and a superbowl with playoffs combind.

    Just like Billy Buckner who once lead the major league baseball in unassisted outs at 1st base,but will always be remembered for the out he didn’t make against the Mets in 86.

    If the owners want him that bad fine. I feel he should be punished and that could be done by having the Captain of the defending champion present the Stanley Cup to the new champion instead of Bettman from now on.

  8. Aetherial says:

    While I hate the NHLPA… I begrudgingly admit that Bob Goodenow has been an excellent leader for the union. He has delivered on promises and seen salaries sky rocket.

    For that reason, you may not actually see him canned.

    His past performance certainly exceeds that of Bettman.

    However, nobody is perfect and Mr. Goodenow made a couple HORRIBLE mistakes.

    First, I think he believes in his own infallibilty and suffers overmuch from pride because of it. He sees himself as the legendary Bob Goodenow who goes to the right to final minute and *wins* for the players… this led to the real mistake he made.

    He flat out blew it. It is almost certain that the players will not win. It has been a take-back negotiation from the start and Goodenow has not been aware enough of the owners resolve or the gravity of the league’s situation. The players, in large part, have no idea whatsoever what is going on… this out of the mouths of some very prominent NHL stars.

    In short, I think he did not adapt sufficiently to the take-back nature of this negotiation.

    The fact is, the players will never regain this money or the years on their career. Goodenow can’t save them, from himself this time.

  9. Aetherial says:

    Bettman is the fall guy for the owners. He insulates them. They need it.

    Look at the brutal beatnig the player’s reputations have taken… not that many of them know anything or have a say in anything… yes, that last part is absolutely true.

  10. simplyhabby says:

    Every group needs a whipping boy (leader) but it is the duty of that leader to either provide or enhance the direction that is given to them.

    I like the trophy presentation idea, and when the cap is in place, repeats will be few and far between. Thats if the Pats don’t play hockey!

  11. simplyhabby says:

    i imagine they like to group the rule changes so they can see a major impact on the on ice product. I do not agree with that philosophy at all as I agree with you reagrding implemention rule changes on by one. The refs still can’t get the obstruction penalty right..must be crazy to chew gum at the same time too.

  12. simplyhabby says:

    Agreed. Nothing like chopping off the heads of the leaders to get something done!

  13. simplyhabby says:

    If MLB can assume control of the Expos..why can’t the NHL do the same for Carolina? I am sorry, if a team has been losing money for as long as it been in existence (including prior location) someone needs to step in.

  14. 19Yzerman says:

    Goodenow is aware enough of the gravity of the league’s situation regarding the impossibility of replacement players since the TV nets works claim the NHL skill level was hardly market able as it was let alone trying to use players that possess inferior skill that would produce even lower ratings. In five years the threat of replacements will be real. Until then the replacements have 4 to 5 years of development ahead of them.

    The NHLPA isn’t trying to recuperate any season loss income. They are trying to help those who will follow their steps from being given less and less as the owners are trying to do right now.

  15. simplyhabby says:

    One thing I give Bettman and the owners credit (even though they do not admit it), they screwed up regarding the contracts they gave to the players. They thought the sport will thrive and sustain the huge contracts. The market shrank and now they are trying to fix it. I don’t like the way they are going about it but you have to do what you have to do.

  16. simplyhabby says:

    How many years must a team be successful for it to build a loyal fan base? Carolina went to the finals (had to firesale seats to sell out for the playoffs) and they are at the bottom for attendance. TB won the cup (had to have a firesale to sell out during the playoffs). How many more cups or top ten years will it take them?

    It might be a bad example but the Leafs of the 80’s sucked the big one. They still sold out and that is because of a loyal fan base. Again, how long before a franchise can achieve this loyalty or should i say, is achieving that loyalty possible in certain markets?

  17. 19Yzerman says:

    I had been thinking about that presentation idea thing for a while and never more then lately as I get to thinking about how to take the MIC away from Bettman during moments of great importance. It would be something that would fuel the fire of a defending champ to not lose and create a situation of literally having to give the Cup up if you do lose.

  18. wingsrock34 says:

    i agree 100% on that when you have a owner bragging to the press that the longer the lockout goes on the less $ he loses you should take his team, and i just dont get how carolina is such a great place for a team if your losing so much $

  19. Teppy1954 says:

    While I believe Gary Bettman is not the sole power broker in the NHL head office, I believe that his mistakes over the last decade have brought us (in part) to this point. First, if cost certainty was paramount in the owners interests, why did he continue the old CBA over and over.

    I believe that Bettman is as culpable as Goodenow in this mess. Bob Goodenow, for reasons of pure greed has allowed the former CBA to be renewed twice and has watched the inflation of salaries go unchecked as it has enriched him and the NHLPA without so much as a cautionary note to the players that the environment was due to change. Now everything must change or there will be no NHL.

    Cost certainty and linkage are a must. The sooner the players understand that they are performers and not owners, the sooner this idiotic mess will be cleaned up.

  20. habsoverserver says:

    This is about cost certainty creating long term value for franchises, not about one year of ratings. 50% of the NHL will be replacement players in three years anyway.

    Goodenow is aware that he is no longer the point man in negotiations.

  21. GilaMonster says:

    i think a team’s fans must feel they are committed to winning. to many pieces did not fall into place in a lot of these markets. carolina did not make some good decisions, the ducks did not re-sign oates,kariya,thomas. the fans honestly feel its only a matter of time before they lose some key players.

  22. GilaMonster says:

    i think a team’s fans must feel they are committed to winning. to many pieces did not fall into place in a lot of these markets. carolina did not make some good decisions, the ducks did not re-sign oates,kariya,thomas. the fans honestly feel its only a matter of time before they lose some key players. one playoff run does not establish a fan base.

  23. GilaMonster says:

    i think a team’s fans must feel they are committed to winning. to many pieces did not fall into place in a lot of these markets. carolina did not make some good decisions, the ducks did not re-sign oates,kariya,thomas. the fans honestly feel its only a matter of time before they lose some key players. one playoff run does not establish a fan base.

  24. 19Yzerman says:

    The NHLPA didn’t put a gun to heads of the NHL when they sighed the last CBA

    Yes it did have various clawses which worked to the players adavntage. However owners were writting checks that they could and were willing to cover. The problem was other owners were crying about how they cannot afford to match those amounts because they are not trying to entertain the BIG APPLE. Beside there was only 3 teams that exceeded 42.5 million last season anyhow.

    42.5??? 46??? whats the difference if only three teams were over 46 million last year?

    It was not armed robbery

    It was not embezzlemant

    it was not extorsion

    It was owners paying players what they felt the players were worth gambling on getting a return on their investment.

  25. ericthered1961 says:

    you make some good points

  26. 19Yzerman says:

    that is the owners stance.

    I was speaking of the players stance.

  27. LeafyMcLeaf says:

    I think Bettman is good for buisiness, bad for hockey. Remember when Tim Hortons wanted to buy an NHL team (this happened with both Ottawa and Florida) and said they would only buy it in Hamilton, but the NHL said no. They expanded with four teams that year. Four of the worst franchises ever (fan base wise). Ottawa, Florida, Tampa Bay, San Jose.

    North West North Centre North East

    Vancouver Winnipeg St. Johns Seattle Toronto Halifax

    Calgary Hamilton Quebec City

    Edmonton Detroit Montreal

    Portland Ottawa Boston

    Regina Baltimore PEI

    South West South Centre South East

    Los Angelas Chicago Boston

    Colorado Columbus New York I

    Minnesota St. Louis New York R

    Dallas Atlanta Philidelphia

    Houston Hartford Buffallo

    Salt Lake City Kansas City Cleveland

    Thirty six cities that could have teams.

  28. 19Yzerman says:

    They are not a better hockey market then the one they left behind. What Carolina was at the time is a place to go to who was willing to do what Hartford was not willing to do and that is put up an arena for them.

    They should have called them the Carolina SugarDaddys.

  29. 19Yzerman says:

    Leafy are you exanding on expasion??

    I would like to see cities that once had an NHL teams be given another chance.

    I see you listed boston twice. Can we put Seatle where you listed boston and call them the Metropolitans?

  30. wingsrock34 says:

    ya its a good thing he moved them from Hartford tp get that new arena so fit in all 4,000-5,000 fans they have…what a bad move

  31. wingsrock34 says:

    ya its a good thing he moved them from Hartford to get that new arena so all 4,000-5,000 fans they have fit…what a bad move

  32. beefer says:

    Did anyone get a chance to hear or see Mike Francessa’s interview with Bettman today?(it was on WFAN 660AM and the YES network)

  33. kicksave856 says:

    Anything interesting come out of the interview?

  34. TheCoach says:

    Leafy, I’m going to have to call you an idiot on this one.

    First off, Ottawa ranked 10th in the league in attendance last year. Seems to me that this is in the upper tier of the league. I do not know why you are saying they have bad fan support, because considering the size of their market, approximately 4 and a half times smaller than Toronto, they do extremely well.

    Secondly, the reason Hamilton does not have a team is not because Bettman did not want one there. The fact is, when the NHL was exploring the possibility of expanding into that market, both the Leafs and Sabres put an end to those plans, exercising the fact that they have terratorial rights. If you remember, Toronto also tried to prevent putting a franchise in Ottawa.

    Also, Ottawa and Tampa entered the league in 92-93. San Jose entered in 91-92. Florida and Anaheim entered in 93-94.

  35. TheCoach says:

    Look, nobody is saying that the players caused this, but unfortunately, in this situation that does not matter.

    What gets me is players continually saying that it’s not “fair.” Well, no, its not fair. But if there is one thing I’ve learned in business is that the business world is not fair. Nobody cares who caused the problem, the only thing that people should care about is fixing it. Players continually say that the NHL is a business. Well, if they feel that way, they should be prepared to accept a deal thats not “fair” because it is necessary.

    The unions job is not to get a fair deal. Bob Goodenow’s job is to get the best possible deal. That 42.5 million dollar cap was the best deal they were ever going to get. The players screwed themselves with this one, and as several people have said, Goodenow will be remembered for making one of the greatest miscalculations in sports history.

  36. rojoke says:

    The league has never expanded by four teams in a single season under Gary Bettman’s tenure.

    The Sharks came into existence in 1991, and Ottawa and Tampa in 1992, under the presidency of John Zeigler I might add. Florida and Anaheim came into the league in 1993.

  37. 19Yzerman says:

    Your saying” that 42.5 million dollar cap was the best deal they were ever going to get.” Stands true with the removal of the word ever. Since no one has a crystal ball to tell us what lies in the near or distant future it is purely speculation. I am of the opinion that brighter days are on the horizon for NHLers and they know as well as the owners which is the reason the two sides are doing what they are doing.

    “Goodenow will be remembered for making one of the greatest miscalculations in sports history.”

    Maybe but, maybe not that depends on a future event. However Bettman is responsible for being the one to call of a season which resulted in a blank spot on the historical list of Stanley Cup Champions and creating the DARKEST DAY IN HOCKEY HISTORY period.

  38. Aetherial says:

    Oh My God Yzerman… you have got to be kidding me.

    You actually believe this stuff about making the game better for those who follow?

    I am sorry but this is about money, now, for the CURRENT players.

  39. Aetherial says:

    You need to get control… you used to be discussing this with some reasonability, now you seem to be forgetting all of that.

    You are quick to point out where Bettman when wrong but somehow… you fail to blame Goodenow?

    I am sorry but, simply, you are misinformed. I know FOR A FACT that there are a lot of players have no clue what is going on, no idea why a cap was not offered sooner and are pretty scared that their union is throwing away their careers.

    I heard so much on the weekend about this that I am actually starting to sympathize with *some* NHL players.

    I am not quick to point the finger solely at leadership and I given Goodenow credit for his past accomplishments… but somehow, in your analysis he appears beyond reproach here?

    Please tell me I haev missed something and you actually understand that Goodenow has made serious mistakes and miscalculations in this process so far… atthe very least, he completely underestimated the owners’ resolve!

  40. Aetherial says:

    I really think places like Kansas City, Cleveland and Oakland would have at least as much trouble surviving as the current weak-sisters in the NHL.

  41. Aetherial says:

    He claims the NHLPA set up the league, they had no intention of negotiating. They wanted Bettman to either look bad, or cave on an offer the owners could not afford.

  42. 19Yzerman says:

    No not about making the game better for those who follow. That is a matter of rule changes once the NHL and NHLPA get the CBA done. Its about making the income better for those who follow.

    If the NHLPA was looking to make now, for the CURRENT players. They would have settled for what the owners would have given them and not concerned them selves with any salary structuring for the future and we would have been wtching hockey since sept.

  43. 19Yzerman says:

    The assement of Gooodenows miscalculations in this process remains to be seen. Only time will tell.

    For now it is what it is a miscalculation. For now!!!

    Your right I do fault Bettman more so then Goodenow to the point where I no longer have ears for what Bettman has to say dispite being overwhelmed with interest in a topic which he has MAJOR control over.

    Didn’t feel teazed last weekend?

    Like you can have a season!

    Wait no you cant!

  44. 19Yzerman says:

    I think Leafy may have been thinking that Ottawa had not changed since the owner couldn’t pay its players a couple of years ago and the media tried its best to help with articles in the papers as free advertising to get more fans to go to games which didn’t help.

  45. wingedim says:

    I disagree with you. If the players were concerned about the game better for those that are up and coming, they would’ve started negotiating the CBA back in ’99 when the league first approached them about hammering out a new deal. That and they wouldn’t be limiting the ‘entry level’ contracts as much as they are discussing.

  46. EmptyNetter says:

    “How many years must a team be successful for it to build a loyal fan base?”

    More than one would be nice. Didn’t they finish 28th the following year? Besides, their play is boring, their uniforms are boring and the Leaf keep borrowing their guys every year just before the playoffs. They remind me of the Edmonton Oilers in terms of young players who went elsewhere once they became stars. Didn’t they draft Shannahan and Scott Stevens? I doubt they’ll be able to hold onto Eric Staal for very long. I’d like to see the Canes move to a place like Salt Lake City. If the Carolinas really need hockey we can throw them the Utah Grizzlies (an AHL team).

    Tampa Bay is only now shedding the reputation it had as a Mickey Mouse team when Phill Esposito ran the show. Now that they’ve got a nice mix of young and old players and a good coach at the helm they should be making regular appearances in the playoffs. They’ll probably be the best indicator of whether hockey can bloom in the southern US.

  47. 19Yzerman says:

    Oh I see the logic in the train of thought which thinks that the players are only interested in making money now for the 38 to 42 year old range of players by throwing away the 1 bird in the hand for the 2 birds in the bush.

    What the NHLPA is doing is setting up the players who are under the age of 30 for a stable future income. If you don’t see it that way then so be it.

    We simply disagree on the NHLPA intentions.

  48. guinsfan4life says:

    I don’t exactly understand why people are so hard on Bettman. Do you have to be a “hockey guy” to be the comissioner of the NHL? If so someone please define to me what exactly is a “hocky guy”?

    Is this someone who has the NHL logo on their cheek? OR a tattoo on their left butt cheek? Maybe he has to have a minimum of 5 teeth and maximum of 10 in order to be qualified???

    THe simple fact of the matter is we are all disappointed there is not a hockey season this year. The league will be great when it does come back. It will be healthy. Yeah, there will be stumbling blocks, but there always are when you are trying to accomplish something this monumental.

    Furthermore, I believe the axe that came down that has led us to this situation are the following:

    1. Bobby Holik’s contract signing

    2. Alexei Yashin’s contract signing

    3. Curtis Joseph’s contract signing

    Another big thing that increased these salaries is the fact that free agency is at such an older age. The league needs to move FA up to a younger level for the players which will flood the market with players each offseason and increase the bargaining power for each team.

    There are many things that contributed to the downfall of the league to where it is now. Pinpointing one thing is useless.

  49. kicksave856 says:

    I listened on the website. The NHLPA are the “bad guys” again.

  50. kicksave856 says:

    A cap on teeth!

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