HomeSportsWhy is NHL commissioner Gary Bettman so polarizing to fans?

Why is NHL commissioner Gary Bettman so polarizing to fans?

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has been at the helm of the league’s ups and downs for three decades. While there have been numerous positive changes within the NHL during that time — most notably the rise in team ratings — Bettman has also been at the helm of the NHL through multiple controversies, from three lockouts to the Chicago sex abuse scandal Blackhawks to the problems in the league. position on CTE and concussions.

Fans have often expressed their displeasure with Bettman, and like many other sports league commissioners, he is regularly booed when he appears in public, such as at the Stanley Cup trophy presentation or at the NHL draft. At last year’s draft, however, Bettman leaned into the hate, telling the crowd, “You can do better than that.”

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How long has Gary Bettman been NHL commissioner?

Gary Bettman, 71, has been commissioner of the NHL since February 1, 1993, making him the longest-serving commissioner in all North American professional sports leagues. He is also the league’s first official commissioner; Before the title of commissioner was created, the league’s highest executive position was the NHL president, a role that five people have held.

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Before becoming commissioner, Bettman was senior vice president and general counsel at the NBA, where he worked closely with NBA commissioner David Stern for 30 years from 1984 to 2014.

During Bettman’s first full season in 1993-94, the league had 26 teams. It has since expanded to 33 teams (one of which is inactive) and is preparing to welcome a franchise to Utah.

What is Gary Bettman’s salary?

There have been no publicly reported details about his salary since the 2013-14 season.

Did Gary Bettman play in the NHL?

No, Bettman never played in the NHL. However, in 2016, Bettman said Sportsnet that he can indeed skate. As for organized sports, Sportsnet reported that he was on his high school’s football team, and he told a local New Jersey publication that he played intramural hockey in college. As a college student, he regularly watched the Cornell Big Red hockey team.

Why was Bettman so polarizing?

Under Bettman, the league’s owners have locked out the players three times. The first came in 1994-95, one season after he took the job, leading to a shortened 48-game season. The second lockout, and perhaps the most damaging, occurred in 2004-05, when Bettman and the owners canceled the entire season. The last in 2012-13, which lasted just over three months, reduced another season from 82 to 48 games.

Money was at the root of every work stoppage. The owners wanted to institute a salary cap but ultimately failed during the 1994-95 lockout. Leading up to the second lockout, the league took the position that it was losing millions while player salaries soared.

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The NHL’s stance on CTE and concussions has also prompted warnings about Bettman. He told NPR in 2023 that he sees no link between playing hockey in the NHL and the brain disease, unlike the NFL, which has acknowledged a link between head trauma and CTE. “I don’t believe there has been any documented research to suggest that elements of our play result in CTE,” Bettman told NPR.

The NHL’s handling of the 2021 sex abuse scandal involving the Chicago Blackhawks was criticized for its slow response in handling the case. Bettman defended the league’s process and the punishment it imposed: a $2 million fine on Chicago for “inadequate internal procedures and inadequate and untimely response” to the situation.

“This response should send a clear message to all NHL clubs and all NHL personnel that inappropriate actions must be addressed in a timely manner,” Bettman said in a statement in October 2021.

Yet, despite the shots coming his way, the commissioner doesn’t seem to bat an eye.

What is the state of today’s NHL after three decades of Bettman?

The NHL has been transformed in multiple facets under Bettman’s time as commissioner.

Expansion was a key element during Bettman’s time in the league. Most recently, the NHL added teams in Las Vegas and Seattle; the Golden Knights have reached the Stanley Cup Finals twice, winning in 2022-2023. The league also re-established a franchise in Winnipeg in 2011, and the Quebec Nordiques moved to Colorado and became the Avalanche, winning Stanley Cups in 1996, 2001 and 2022.

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Bettman’s handling of the Arizona Coyotes’ stadium ordeal has been a constant thorn in the league’s side. Even with Bettman’s support, the Coyotes couldn’t get a new arena. Arizona played two seasons at Arizona State University’s 5,000-seat Mullett Arena after the city of Glendale terminated its lease with the franchise following the 2021-2022 season. This spring, the NHL facilitated the team’s move to Utah.

As Bettman’s tenure continued, the NHL team’s valuations continued to rise. In 2004 (a lockout season), the average NHL team was worth $163 million Forbes. Nearly two decades later, Sportico reported that the average NHL team was valued at $1.31 billion.

ESPN returned to the broadcast mix to air NHL games starting in the 2021-2022 seasons as part of a seven-year deal, but the network’s history with the sport is complex. After the 2004-05 lockout season, ESPN declined to exercise its $60 million option to broadcast games, ending the 21-year relationship it had with the league, according to The New York Times. Comcast-owned OLN, which later became Versus and then NBC Sports Network, paid $65 million for the 2005-06 season. At the time, OLN had 64 million subscribers, compared to ESPN’s 90 million.

With ESPN and TNT Sports as broadcast partners, the NHL saw eight straight years of high ratings and record attendance heading into the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The league averaged 504,000 viewers per game and the arenas operated at 97% capacity.

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