Gary Bettman will begin his 15th year as NHL commissioner tomorrow and he ought to celebrate. It’s quite an accomplishment.
Just how he’s managed to survive this long, however, is beyond me. Under Bettman, the NHL has suffered countless setbacks, some of which appear irreparable.
Dan Wetzel, a U.S. columnist with Yahoo.com, agrees, writing, “There has never been a commissioner of a major North American sports league this inept, yet the league’s board of governors keeps employing him, keeps giving him another chance to sink this once-proud, once-vibrant league to new depths. Bettman is on a 14-year run of bad ideas. His latest was a classic, moving the league’s All-Star Game, which featured attention-grabbing young megastars, to midweek on the Versus Network — as opposed to NBC on a weekend. He claimed it would allow Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin to own the sports landscape, unlike some crowded weekend. The result was a catastrophic 0.7 rating. That’s a meagre 474,298 households in the States that bothered to watch, down 76 per cent from the last All-Star Game. It is par for a season which has seen TV numbers plummet in both the U.S. and Canada (down 20 per cent by some reports), attendance drop and media coverage dwindle.”
Wetzel adds, “The Bettman era has been an unmitigated disaster for the league in virtually every possible way, one outrageously terrible initiative after another ... The league is now overexpanded and overpriced, misplaced and misdirected. It is less exciting, less interesting, less traditional and more difficult to follow ...”
Harsh comments, yes, but also bang-on.
•The New Jersey Nets are trying desperately to trade Vince Carter, offering him to Utah for Andrei Kirilenko, to Seattle for Ray Allen and to Memphis for Pau Gasol.
“I don’t care,” Carter is quoted as saying. “I’m content with myself and my game and what I bring to the table. If it happens, it happens, if it doesn’t, it doesn’t.”
•Canadian reliever Eric Gagne hasn’t even reported to the Texas training camp yet but already is part of a team controversy.
That’s because Akinori Otsuka, who was 32-for-36 in saves last year, is fuming that the Rangers handed the closer’s job to Gagne, even though he pitched only two innings in 2006.