It's Time For Bettman to Go

The upcoming outdoor game is drawing a great deal of excitement in the hockey world, and that is good. But I happen to think it is being handled very stupidly by the league office. It is yet another mistake in the horror that has been Gary Bettman’s tenure as commissioner.The current state of the game as a clutch and grab circus is enough for fans to want Gary Bettman sacked worse than Mike Keenan. But if you don’t think there’s anything wrong with the game, then consider this opinion.

Hockey is struggling to find any identity at all with fans in the USA. I am an avid American hockey fan and I know there are many like me. But when televised games are getting worse ratings than World’s Strongest Man reruns from 1985, it doesn’t take neurosurgeon to figure out that something is wrong. Anybody whose favorite team is broadcast in their local market by Fox Sports Net has to know what I’m talking about. Are any of you tired of the constant plugging of that stupid poker tournament on Thanksgiving? There are hockey games to be played on that day.

What does this have to do with the outdoor game? Plenty. While the game is the only thing that matters in Canada, I’ll bet that most Americans don’t even know it is taking place. How soon we forget the Michigan-Michigan State outdoor game.

Instead of promoting the hell out of this game in the USA and subsequently televising it, the NHL is again going unnoticed. This is a great opportunity to show everyone the great roots of hockey and how exciting it can be. Those of us who are lucky enough to have the NHL Center Ice package will likely have a chance to watch it, but where does that leave the fans the game needs to attract?

How could this have been rectified? Well, one way was to make the Montreal-Edmonton game the only one on the schedule for Saturday so that fans who are loyal to their team wouldn’t have to miss it because their squad is playing at the same time. Earlier in the week, the only game on the docket was Buffalo at Ottawa. Why not do some creative scheduling to enable all hockey fans the chance to watch? Another way would have been to do an outdoor game in both countries. How about a Colorado-Detroit outdoor game in Michigan, where the college game was such a hit. The game’s best rivalry, highly promoted, in front of 50,000 fans and televised nationally. If you don’t like those teams, pick two more American teams.

The point is, Bettman and his cronies had a golden opportunity to expose non-hockey fans in the USA to our great sport. Instead, most Americans that care will have to read about the game online and watch short video clips on SportsCenter. And those that don’t care don’t even know it’s happening.

As for me, I’ll watch the first 2 hours on Center Ice until my Avalanche begin their game against Los Angeles, because the scheduling goons (the same ones who have somehow managed to keep the Maple Leafs from coming to Denver for six straight seasons) decided to test my commitment to my team. But you can bet your rear I’ll be switching back during commercials. Especially if they are promoting stupid poker tournaments.

So, many thanks, Mr. Bettman. Your services are no longer required. Why don’t you and Bob Goodenow have a Celebrity DeathMatch and maybe we can have a hockey season in 2004-05. So long as it doesn’t conflict with the 2004 Thanksgiving Poker Tournament.