Finally! It looks like Gary Bettman, whose tenure at the NHL was declared an unequivocal failure by the Toronto Globe & Mail, might be hitting the rocks. The Globe refers to a Toronto Star article which points out that, in a 30-team league, Canada’s 6 hockey clubs drive nearly a third of the NHL’s ticket revenue. Even more damning, it looks like the revenue gains that Bettman has been touting the past couple of seasons have come, by as much as half, from the increasing value of the Canadian Dollar.
I’m not sure he can take credit for that one, but that didn’t prevent him from trying when interviewed by Ron McLean on last night’s Hockey Night in Canada.
Ron hit him with some pretty tough questions, and it was fascinating (though not unusual) to watch him squirm. He claims that viewership of the Stanley Cup Final is up this year over last year… despite the NHL’s disastrous deal with NBC/Versus. Of course, last year’s Stanley Cup Final featured the Anaheim Ducks, not exactly a hockey-rabid market; and this year pits two of the top 5 US hockey markets, Pittsburgh and Detroit, against one another. Of course the numbers are up!
Bettman continues to cite the symptoms of the NHL’s malaise as though they were evidence of a cure. And that, kids, is exactly the problem. The NHL remains a league which makes its bones in, and thus rises and falls on the flowing tides of, Canada. It has failed to develop significant followings outside of Canada and the Northeastern US, and it really has failed as a global commodity despite numerous foolish attempts in the past.
Gary Bettman has now toiled for 15 years as commissioner of the NHL to product exactly nothing. Meanwhile the NHL’s status as one of the so-called “Big Four” is as tenuous as Canada’s status in the G7.
At a certain point, the blame for the continued languishing of the league must be put squarely on the shoulders of the GMs, who for some reason continue to endorse this buffoon. It’s not his fault he’s incompetent. It’s their fault that they’re rewarding his incompetence.