Why don’t you go away, Gary, eh?

Gary Bettman, in my opinion, is the worst commissioner of all time. Sepp Blatter is second to Bettman, given the corruption that has been plaguing soccer: match fixing, Qatar 2018, Russia 2022, the mafia within FIFA, etc. And the lack of innovation. I jokingly call Bettman the lockout commissioner (or should we call him the Onion Knight?) for he has a record no commissioner envies. He’s had three labor stoppages, including the 2005-04 lockout that saw the entire season cancelled. The NFL has had two lockouts in the past 26 years, none resulting in a lost season, despite being far bigger than hockey both in participation and popularity.

Today, the NHL released the 2013-14 schedule. This season will feature a realignment of the league’s 30 teams from a six to a four division format (Pacific, Central, Atlantic, Metropolitan). The metropolitan division? Dumbest name ever! And while the new format will help re-establish old rivalries between the Red Wings, the Leafs, Rangers, Bruins and Canadiens, it also leaves the West with just one Original Six team (Chicago). This will weaken the Red Wings’ rivalry with the Blackhawks, which has been one of the NHL’s best for over 50 years.Other than Detroit and Chicago, most of the West rivalries, including the Battle of Alberta, were maintained in realignment.

Reducing the amount of travel between time zones was a huge goal in the realignment process, and most teams’ needs have been satisfied with the new plan. The only two teams that should be more concerned about travel than before are the Florida teams, but playing in a division with four Original Six teams should benefit them financially, which makes the change tolerable.

Winnipeg finally gets out of the Southeast Division under the new format, which will substantially reduce its travel and allow the team to form geographical rivalries. The Stars won’t have to be in a division with Pacific teams anymore. Instead, Dallas will play more Central Time Zone teams and travel far less than before. Television ratings and interest among fans could rise at a steady rate because of some teams playing more games against opponents in the same time zone. It’s not something a lot of fans think about, but this change could have a profound impact on the league’s growth.

It’s 11 AM and things are moving slower than expected. I decide to hit up Facebook, for a change of pace. Maybe I am going to find out that a buddy from home got married, or that someone has put another  idiotic status on the biracial Cheerios commercial, or some Jeezbel links. I instead find Mathieu Menard, the die hard hockey fan, and fellow Canadiens lunatic  from Vermont. What a coincidence!

Menard: You should write an article on the NHL conferences.

Menard: How did we get stuck with Florida and TB? And splitting Chicago and Detroit is just terrible.

Me: Hockey needs a fucking overhaul. A change of erection direction

Menard: I agree, too many deadweight teams

Me: They started growing on the average man after the 2011-12 season, but managed to lose it all after the lockout

Menard: Yeah and watching stadiums that are 50% empty on TV isn’t helping. I got a ticket in the 12th row in denver for 12 dollars its just embarrassing MLS has higher average attendance

So, what do most folks think about Bettman’s tenure as Hockey’s CEO?

Gary Bettman should have lost his job years and years ago. The case against Bettman in one sentence: The NHL sacrificed an entire season so they could reimagine their entire salary structure … and only seven years later, that “reimagining” went so poorly that they contemplated slaughtering a second season because they need a mulligan. This goes alongside the league’s botched television deals, over-expansion, poorly picked markets, belated acknowledgement of the concussion epidemic, or more incredibly, how they stupidly forgot to limit the length of contracts. This is a commissioner who fought like hell to create a hard cap, and after it finally got approved, was too dense to remember to include a rule that would make contracts longer than five or six years an impossibility, like what the NBA does. That led to team after team circumventing that cap by giving out guaranteed deals lasting as long as 15 YEARS. Really, didn’t see that loophole getting exploited, Gary? Never came up as you were hashing things out? Should have asked the IRS about creating a system with loopholes.

Imagine a dude relocating his family of 30 to a hotel (he sure doesn’t shoot blanks. or he is a mormon?), in order to renovate his house. On second thoughts, he decides he wants to demolish it and build a brand new one. He does so and the family finally moves in. However, 7 days later, he decides to demolish it again. They screwed up somewhere. Naturally, you ask,  “Why didn’t you figure out all that stuff before you rebuilt the house the first time?” That dude is Bettman.

Hockey depends on its attendance and the unwavering devotion of its zealous fan base. From a television standpoint, the league will always be handicapped by its lack of marketable stars (the biggest reason it can’t command anything close to the NBA’s television deal). It’s the ultimate team sport, and really, that’s the best thing about hockey — there’s a guaranteed level of entertainment night after night after night that transcends star power. Everyone skates hard, everyone throws their bodies around, everyone plays well together, everyone gives a crap. Teeth are lost, brains altered, and enforcers knocked unconscious on the ice. You go to hockey games to see quality teams, not quality players. There’s a fixed level of entertainment. But the masses aren’t buying into it, maybe they need a new strategy and business plan.  Could it be disparities in wealth? Demographics?
 It’s one of those days, when I feel like a mathematician; not because I will give you a talk on “The Distribution of Random Matrix Theory And Its Applications,” but because I am going to be using  lots of numbers to back up my opinion on why Gary needs to go.
League Sport Year
Founded
Teams Last
Contraction
Revenue
US$ (bn)
Recent Average
Attendance
National Football League American football 1920 32 1952 $11.0 67,604 (2012)
Major League Baseball Baseball 1869 30 1899 $7.0 30,895 (2012)
National Basketball Association Basketball 1946 30 1954 $5.0 17,274 (2012)
National Hockey League Ice hockey 1917 30 1978 $3.3 17,455 (2012)
Major League Soccer Soccer 1994 19 2002 $0.3 18,807 (2012)
Canadian Football League Canadian football 1958 8 2006 $0.1 28,193 (2012)

 

League Sport Teams Recent Average
Attendance
2009 Avg.
Attendance
Trend
Since 2009
National Football League American football 32 67,604 (2012) 65,043 +2,561
Major League Baseball Baseball 30 30,895 (2012) 30,300 +595
Canadian Football League Canadian football 8 28,193 (2012) 28,054 +139
Major League Soccer Soccer 19 18,807 (2012) 16,037 +2,770
National Hockey League Ice hockey 30 17,455 (2012) 17,460 –5
National Basketball Association Basketball 30 17,274 (2012) 17,520 –246

 

League Total Revenue (bn) TV Revenue
National Football League $11.0 $5.0 bn
Major League Baseball $7.0 $1.5 bn
National Basketball Association $5.0 $930 m
National Hockey League $3.3 $200 m  
Major League Soccer $0.3 $27 m  
Canadian Football League $0.1 $16 m  

 

As of 2012, Hockey has an attendance lower than the MLS’s , almost a fourth of the NFL’s total revenue, and a fifth of the NBA’s TV revenue (1/25 of the NFL’s TV renevue, and 2/15 of the MBL’s TV revenue). Also, Hockey has a -5 trend. Some will point out how it’s better than than the NBA’s -246, but let’s remember that David Stern generated 1.7 billion more than Bettman in 2012.  Not bad for a guy whose employees include Cousins, Z-Bo, Birdman, the White Dragon.

The hoisting of Lord Stanley is always the highlight of the season. In the years since Bettman’s debut as the Stanley Cup presenter, the ceremony has evolved into one of the most awkward traditions in all of sports. Bettman fidgets, the crowd boos, the posed photo takes way too long, and the winning captain fakes a smile while he waits for Bettman to just let go of the Cup and hit the bricks. Calls for Bettman to step aside and let somebody else do the honors have reached the point where it’s practically a consensus, but he’s still pretending it’s all good, like that dude who invited himself to a party. You don’t belong here anymore, Gary.

It’ll be hard for hockey to establish itself as long as Gary Bettman is lurking around. Maybe David Stern planted him in the NHL, to ruin hockey?

Why don’t you go away, Gary, eh?

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