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Bettman’s Bad Week

from Damien Cox of The Spin,

The perfect storm. That’s about what this week has been for Gary Bettman.

The NHL’s two areas of greatest vulnerability, the two issues that attract the most public scrutiny and open the league to charges of being structurally unsound and run by outlaws, have been played out in some of North America’s largest media centres this week.

In one corner, you have the league-owned Phoenix Coyotes, quite possibly headed to Winnipeg because a public watchdog smells lies and deceit and law-breaking with the process being used to transfer the hockey club to a new, Chicago-based owner.

In the other, you have the violence issue, which this week was played out in an entirely different, nearly unprecendented fashion, with Montreal forward Max Pacioretty badly injured when run into a glass partition by giant Boston defenceman Zdeno Chara. Chara was penalized on the play, but not subjected to a suspension or fine. That left hockey fans in Montreal screaming bloody murder, and even had Montreal-based Air Canada complaining to the league and seemingly threatening to pull it’s financial support.

While each of these situations - Phoenix and the Chara hit - can be logically argued in different ways, the overall impression for the league is instability and mayhem.

continued

Filed in: NHL Teams, NHL Talk, | KK Hockey | Permalink
  Tags: gary+bettman

Comments

Hank1974's avatar

“I disagree”

Posted by Hank1974 on 03/10/11 at 11:21 AM ET

WingMan's avatar

Does anyone thing Bettman will resign of a team leaves the US and ends up back in Canada?  I think he would consider it, because he would deem his efforts a failure (on some level).  I don’t care either way, was just wondering if it was a possibility?

Posted by WingMan from The Q C on 03/10/11 at 11:29 AM ET

Evilpens's avatar

Nope he is hired by the owners to do what they want

Posted by Evilpens on 03/10/11 at 11:37 AM ET

Hank1974's avatar

I don’t think so. He’ll be there as long as the owners want him.
Regarding moving a team to the ‘Peg, I’ve heard that most owners want this to happen badly.
Winnipeg wouldn’t require nearly as much revenue sharing money (if any at all), so that means way more cash in their pockets.

NHL owners have always been near-sighted.
While I’d love for the Jets to come back in the NHL, it’s not good to grow the game. Neither is Glendale, but why not move the team to Seattle or Wisonsin, or Oregon, or someplace else that can help the US TV market?

Putting a team in Winnipeg will be great for Jets fans, CBC and Canadian fans. But Canada is maxed out in it’s fan base. It’ll never decrease or increase.

If you put a team in Seattle or Oregon, you reach out to a pocket further west that might not have been explored.

Cox is right on the violence front though. The NHL seems to have turned a 180 and embraced the bloodshed that’s happening every night.
They relish in the cheap shots and vigilante justice.
There were more fights in the 70’s but I think the game is far more dangerous today. Fighting is one thing, but seeing guys getting driven into the boards head-first every night is another.

Posted by Hank1974 on 03/10/11 at 11:39 AM ET

pensfan29's avatar

Hank, they tried reaching out West with the Coyotes. It hasnt worked. I doubt Seattle (who just lost an nba team) or Oregon will be any better than PHX

Posted by pensfan29 on 03/10/11 at 12:20 PM ET

Avatar

I doubt Seattle (who just lost an nba team) or Oregon will be any better than PHX

I might be wrong, but didn’t the Sonics moving have more to do with the ownership failing in its attempts to ransom Seattle into funding a new arena?  Up till their last season, the Sonics had averaged over 15k/game in every season since the ‘93.  Even their drama filled final season saw them draw more than 13k/game, which is more than the ‘Yotes have done recently (sorry Phoenix, not trying to hate on you, just sayin).  I guess there’s no way to know if that would translate directly to a hockey market…but the Sonics’ situation might not be a good benchmark for the Seattle market either.

Posted by dumbasrocks on 03/10/11 at 12:40 PM ET

pensfan29's avatar

You might be right. Im not 100% sure why they left. But I dont think the b-ball hungry fans will go for hockey

Posted by pensfan29 on 03/10/11 at 12:50 PM ET

Avatar

But I dont think the b-ball hungry fans will go for hockey

Thass raciss. 

No but seriously, I think those granola eaters would love them some fractured necks and concussions just as much as the next guy.

Posted by dumbasrocks on 03/10/11 at 12:53 PM ET

Moq's avatar

Most fans, I assume, take little interest in the ongoing development of the Phoenix debacle. I’ve supported the league’s effort to exhaust every viable solution to avoid relocation, but we’ve reached a point where other alternatives should be considered. The current sales scheme involving Hulsizer looks and sounds a little dubious.

The violence issue has been a predictable outcome of conflicting interests within the league. On one hand there has been an effort to retain as much violence as possible from irrelevant fisticuffs to dangerous physical play. Something that appeals to the old-school (Canadian) segment of brawn before brain. On the other hand there has been a promotion of the skill element of hockey to exploit star players of broader appeal.

When there’s no clear demarcation line between physicality and violence in the game, and no uniform and transparent suspension policy, skill is going to take a backseat sooner or later. We’ve reached a point where there’s a dangerous hit in every single game. Everything has shown that the players are unable to navigate the current ruleset and need to be protected from themselves. The hockey culture underneath behavior on the ice is rotten to the core.

After recent games like Montreal-Boston and Penguins-Islanders it’s difficult to muster optimism for the direction of the league. Nothing will change as long as they continue to make money. Even the replacement of Bettman wouldn’t cause a revolution. We’ll see another conservative administrator adept at deflecting criticism.

Posted by Moq from Denmark on 03/10/11 at 01:02 PM ET

Hank1974's avatar

The violence issue has been a predictable outcome of conflicting interests within the league. On one hand there has been an effort to retain as much violence as possible from irrelevant fisticuffs to dangerous physical play. Something that appeals to the old-school (Canadian) segment of brawn before brain. On the other hand there has been a promotion of the skill element of hockey to exploit star players of broader appeal.

When there’s no clear demarcation line between physicality and violence in the game, and no uniform and transparent suspension policy, skill is going to take a backseat sooner or later. We’ve reached a point where there’s a dangerous hit in every single game. Everything has shown that the players are unable to navigate the current ruleset and need to be protected from themselves. The hockey culture underneath behavior on the ice is rotten to the core.

After recent games like Montreal-Boston and Penguins-Islanders it’s difficult to muster optimism for the direction of the league. Nothing will change as long as they continue to make money. Even the replacement of Bettman wouldn’t cause a revolution. We’ll see another conservative administrator adept at deflecting criticism.

Terrific post! Couldn’t agree more.
When I hear the term ‘hockey play’ it makes my stomach turn.
Maybe we need to re-evaluate what a hockey play is. Remember, those in the front offices who throw that term around played in an era where a big man was someone over 5’10” and 170lbs. A hockey play in the 70’s usually didn’t result in someone’s neck breaking.

The NHL desperately needs to jettison all the dinosaurs from the front offices immediately.
When a caveman like Mike Milbury turns a 180 and starts decrying the need for goons and senseless violence then you know the game is getting out of hand.

Posted by Hank1974 on 03/10/11 at 01:20 PM ET

Avatar

I think people, especially Moq, give the league office too much credit.  IMO this isn’t a question of a rational and defined strategy gone awry nearly as much as it is a simple case of incompetence and stupidity, repeated liberally.

The NHL has made very few decisions over the past 5 years or so which one could describe as intelligent.  As far as can be reasonably determined, their general strategy to date has been a) keep as many teams in as many big US media markets as possible regardless of how much money those teams lose and b) make sure the marquee players are winning in order to have the millions of marketing dollars spent on them appear effective.

That’s it, really.  The discipline issue has been a problem for the entirety of Bettman’s tenure, and has mostly been a series of cases where bias, stupidity, and ignorance wage war for supremacy in the league office.  Given officials receive their guidance from that same league office, their tendency to startling inconsistency and incompetence is more of a function of mirroring their leadership than it is an intentional design by said leadership.

A CBA filled with obvious holes, a league with numerous teams losing tens of millions (often as a direct result of said CBA), a league with borderline bi-polar discipline at the game and league levels… those things didn’t happen because Gary Bettman thought it would be the best course for the NHL, they happened and will continue to happen because he just doesn’t know how to do things correctly.

Posted by HockeyinHD on 03/10/11 at 02:12 PM ET

Evilpens's avatar

Terrific post! Couldn’t agree more.
When I hear the term ‘hockey play’ it makes my stomach turn.
Maybe we need to re-evaluate what a hockey play is. Remember, those in the front offices who throw that term around played in an era where a big man was someone over 5’10” and 170lbs. A hockey play in the 70’s usually didn’t result in someone’s neck breaking.

The NHL desperately needs to jettison all the dinosaurs from the front offices immediately.
When a caveman like Mike Milbury turns a 180 and starts decrying the need for goons and senseless violence then you know the game is getting out of hand.
 


Hank the problem is lack of respect for the other players, It starts with Ovechkin running & Jumping into guys on 75% of his checks& goes down from there through most players

I think the bigger problem is Humanity has a lack of respect for their fellow human beings

Unfortunately someone will have to become a vegetable or dies on the ice before the League wakes up

Posted by Evilpens on 03/10/11 at 02:18 PM ET

Hank1974's avatar

Hank the problem is lack of respect for the other players, It starts with
Ovechkin running & Jumping into guys on 75% of his checks& goes down from
there through most players

I think the bigger problem is Humanity has a lack of respect for their
fellow human beings

Unfortunately someone will have to become a vegetable or dies on the ice
before the League wakes up

You’re not going to get an argument from me. I completely agree with what you’ve said.

I don’t think it’ll change but it would be nice if the NHL had some balls and put in measures to keep the players in check;
softer shoulder pads as well as harsher and more consistent discipline.

Two hits come to mind that should have warranted a suspension; Chara and Steckel.
Both were labeled as ‘hockey plays’. Both resulted in players concussed and out indefinitely. And one included, love him or hate him, arguably the best player in the game. Crosby was on pace to do what nobody has done since 1994 - score 130 points or more.

If the NHL hands out suspensions, instead or rewarding “accidental” hockey plays, perhaps a lot of this madness stops.

TSN quoted two anonymous NHLers last year about what deters them from being reckless and both said long suspensions. They both said getting 1 or 2 games is nothing and most players will continue plying their trade.

There needs to be some real discipline thrown around. The players don’t care. They’ll continue to canabolize themselves on a nightly basis. But if you start handing out 5 and 10 game suspensions for ‘hockey plays’, suddenly every player starts to think twice on the ice at all times.

Cheers!

Posted by Hank1974 on 03/10/11 at 02:32 PM ET

Evilpens's avatar

I agree again, I happen to think that the Steckel hit on Sid was just an unfortunate occurrence & only Steckel & God knows if he was trying to hit Sid or not, even if he was trying to accidentally on purpose hit Sid I don’t think he wanted to severely injure him

But something has to change or I fear for what is going to happen to some player or players

Posted by Evilpens on 03/10/11 at 02:38 PM ET

Hank1974's avatar

I happen to think that the Steckel hit on Sid was just an unfortunate occurrence & only Steckel & God knows if he was trying to hit Sid or not, even if he was trying to accidentally on purpose hit Sid I don’t think he wanted to severely injure him

But something has to change or I fear for what is going to happen to some player or players

I’m still not convinced that Steckel didn’t do it on purpose (contradicting statements from him lead me to believe this)*.

In any event, accidental or not, a suspension should have still been handed down.
It sends a very loud message that you’re responsible for your actions regardless if intent was there.

There have been way too many events this season that haven gone unchecked for no reason at all.
- Mike Cammerliri slashes Nino Neidereiter and gets 1-game. The next night. Sean Avery slashes Mike Komiserek TWICE and gets absolutely nothing.
- Milan Lucic sucker punches Tyler Myers. $2500 fine. Not long after Ben Eager hits a suspecting Colby Armstrong with a gloved hand and gets 4 game suspension.
- Cal Clutterbuck hits Islander from behind (can’t remember victims name), no suspension or fine. Moments later Gillies forearms Clutterbuck from the side and gets 10 games.
- Milan Lucic crosschecks Dominic Moore in head. No suspension or fine. Earlier in the year Briere got 2-games for crosschecking Frans Nielsen off a face-off.

The list goes on an on. Why does one instance warrant discipline and another nothing?

The only player who’s been dealt with harshly was Trevor Gillies. And even his 2nd infraction wasn’t worthy of 10-games. Heck, the reason he did it was because Cal Clutterbuck nailed his teammate headfirst into the boards. THAT should have been 10 games!

Colin Campbell is horrible but the NHL is worse because they refuse to remove him.

* I seriously don’t want to derail this thread so I apologize for digging this instance up again.

Posted by Hank1974 on 03/10/11 at 02:58 PM ET

Avatar

I’m in agreement with both of you on this one. The NHL has done a great job of instigating fan bases and players against each other by their total lack of consistency. The problem is the NHL.

PS
Clutterbuck on DiBenedetto in his second NHL: game.

Posted by hockey1919 from mid-atlantic on 03/10/11 at 03:43 PM ET

clownfat's avatar

Uhm… from Seattle here… don’t eat granola very often… probably less often than you…. but thanks for the stereotype. I happen to like hockey quite a bit…. not sure why the basketball team left but Seattle has no place for a hockey team to play as Key arena won’t work. Not sure about Portland…. you should go ask those hippies… jerk.

Posted by clownfat on 03/10/11 at 04:57 PM ET

Avatar

Posted by clownfat on 03/10/11 at 02:57 PM ET

Let me get this straight…  You thought my post was serious, and then you thought the granola part was the most offensive element? 

Internets and Humor -1 for you sir.

Posted by dumbasrocks on 03/10/11 at 05:06 PM ET

clownfat's avatar

Yeah I thought you were totally serious.

Posted by clownfat on 03/10/11 at 08:39 PM ET

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Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.

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