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Silicon Valley veteran doing Technical Community Management. Photographer with a strong interest in birds, wildlife and nature who is exploring the Western states and working to tell you the stories of the special places I've found.
Author and Blogger. They are not the same thing. Sports occasionally spoken here, especially hockey. Veteran of Sun, Apple, Palm, HP and now Infoblox, plus some you've never heard of. They didn't kill me, they made me better.
Person with opinions, and not afraid to share them. Debate team in high school and college; bet that's a surprise.
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Monthly Archives: February 2005
something we’ve talked about a lot. Here are some economists who’ve studied it:
and here’s a summary of what they found:
Our analysis offers historic evidence that suggests the consumers’ threat has not been credible. In general, none of the events we examined had a permanent impact upon attendance in these sports. In fact, in almost all instances attendance immediately rebounded in the year following the labor conflict. This explains why strikes and lockouts are happening with increasing frequency in professional sports. If the levels of attendance in the postconflict era are equivalent to the preconflict time period, only short-run costs are imposed upon the conflict partcipants. Given the millions at stake in each dispute, our analysis would indicate that labor conflicts that disrupt the regular season of these sports are likely to occur again in the future.
The “fan lashback” basically doesn’t exist.
Statistically, fans don’t stay away after a strike, or if they do, it’s for short periods of time. Individually, some obviously do, but statistically, it’s not an impact, any more than I impact Safeway when I move my shopping to a different supermarket.
Which basically means that (as I’ve said over time), all that talk by fans about punishing a sport for strikes and lockouts is, well, talk. Just like fans whining about high prices who still buy the tickets, fans talk about boycotting sports that go out on strike, but statistically, that lasts until 10 minutes after the new labor deal is signed. then it’s back to normal…
Off Wing Opinion: Does Gary Bettman Need Some Help?:
Here is some silliness wandering the sports bloggers:
An experienced NHL person would know something is strange about this situation. Bettman just doesn’t see it.
Does anyone see why statements like this are silly?
Bettman works for the NHL. He is, in fact, the public representative of the Board of Governors. They are, if you think about it, either the owners or GMs of the 30 NHL teams. That includes people like Bobby Clarke and Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux. He is a phone call away from anyone involved in hockey, whether it’s Don Cherry or John Ferguson.
Someone please tell me: who could Gary Bettman possibly hire who could be better council and be a more knowledgeable hockey person than the people Bettman already works for, with, and around?
The logic behind this is reassuring to some, but silly: many fans don’t like how things are being done in the NHL (with good reason). Therefore, it’s gary bettman’s fault, and he’s “not a hockey guy”. So, replace him with a “hockey guy” or hire him someone who knows hockey. or something. And that’ll fix things.
Reality: Gary Bettman doesn’t run the NHL. The Board of Governers do. Those 30 owners and/or GMs. Gary doesn’t SNEEZE without their approval. Gary doesn’t need to be a hockey guy, he works for 30 of them (okay, 25 of them, plus about five useless wastes of oxygen. you guess them, I’m not saying). Gary doesn’t need to hire a hockey guy to help, there are dozens of them in the NHL offices (many of them amazingly capble and sharp people) — and frankly, if those “hockey guys” who own and run the hockey teams would have Bettman on the phone so fast and so educated his head would spin — or they’d fire his ass and replace him with someone who could follow orders.
This is the scapegoating of Gary Bettman, a sad and unfortunate attempt by some fans to avoid the basic reality: the NHL is run this way and the NHL acts this way not because Gary Bettman is an incompetent or not a “hockey guy” — but because Gary is doing exactly what his masters (the owners and GMs) want him to do. In other words, this is what the “hockey guys” want. and some fans are so unable or unwilling to accept this basic reality that they build grand conspiracies to avoid that basic reality. conspiracies like believing that Bettman can hold all 30 owners hostage to his whims and wishes, and they can’t do anything to stop him even thought they MUSt all disagree with what he’s doing. (ask Carly Fiorina about wielding that kind of absolute power….)
No, the reality is this: Gary Bettman is doing what the owners told him to do. Gary Bettman’s primary job is to be the public scapegoat so the owners don’t have to. His job is, as much as anything, to get paid a nice salary to take all of our abuse.
If you don’t like how the game’s being run, don’t blame Bettman. He’s not the master. The owners are, and he doesn’t dictate to them, he implements FOR them. Swapping out Bettman won’t fix things — although if the owners think it’ll settle down the fans, they’ll give him a package and publicly boot his butt in a nanosecond (and privately thank him for taking it with a smile) — and the scary thing is, a lot of fans will buy into it.
Now, dn’t mistake me for a FAN of Bettman, although I’m a lot less negative about him than many. A lot of what he’s blamed for is from his predecessors, and in many cases, he minimized what could be much worse damage. Some of the things, he probably had no chance of succeeding (the TV ratings problem). The NHL under his watch isn’t great, but the NHL he inherited was already a disaster, and people conveniently forget that.
And if you don’t like “Gary Bettman’s” NHL, you have a REAL problem, because that NHL is the NHL the owners and GM’s told him to build. So hiring “hockey guys” or replacing bettman won’t solve that. it’s the hockey guys who did it.
Now that it stopped bloody raining for a few days, we’re starting to get stuff moving forward again. We signed the work order for the concrete work in the back, and today, had the fence guy out to quote the back fence (which is standing up by inertia at best), and got that scheduled in. Weather permitting, the fence next week, the concrete the week after, and then the backyard is well on the way to finishing the landscaping. Work is still creeping forward on other projects (the granite for the bathroom vanity should be in this week), but right now, I’m focussing on finishing the damned server migration for plaidworks…. I can almost taste that one finishing, finally.
but if bloggin’s a bit light, it’s because there are 90 other things going on, too.
Church of the Customer: It’s the little details that matter:
Should I be asked to “assist us in the event of an emergency,” as the flight attendants always say with some measure of gravitas — and I hope that request is never made — I’m not quite sure where to put exit door.
Personally, I’ve never figured out the utility of emergency exits at 30,000 feet…..
Something to think about. Name two groups OTHER than fans that have significant financial realities tied up to the NHL season.
One of them are journalists. If you’re a hockey writer, or a hockey talking head, your livelihood is tied to there being hockey to write (or talk) about. Al Strachan just isn’t going to go off and cover the Brier in a few weeks.
Remember that as you continue to read (or listen to) all those self-righteous journalists taking shots at the NHL. How much of that is those people not wanting to end up at the auto show writing features on next generation airbags?
But there’s another group that is set to lose a huge amount of money in all of this — the agents. if there’s no hockey, there are no paychecks (or significantly reduced ones). if there are no paychecks, there are not percentages to pay agents. If you’re a hockey agent, or work for one, you’re in a real world of hurt — and you’re not in any position to influence the negotiations.
Or are you? If you read the articles on yesterday’s negotiations, both sides make it clear they weren’t as close as the rumors had them out to be — yet both sides are being ripped (by the journalists who played up those false rumors of it being a done deal that they got from sources) for not making the deal neither side seems to think was there, other than in the minds of the press and the rumor mill.
So what gives?
Here’s my thought: where are these rumors coming from? Answer: people trying to influence the negotiations, obviously. Using the press and the rumors and sites like eklunds to try to push both sides into an agreement neither side wants. Who’d do that?
there are clearly groups on both sides fighting to get this solved — and groups on both sides fighting back.
But, since the word clearly went out to a lot of players that it was all over but the shouting, to the point some flew back from Europe, and it was all over the press and rumor mills that it was all over, where did those rumors come from? Who told the players to catch the next plane home?
Most likely, their agents. The ones not being paid because there’s no season to take a percentage out of.
So, is all the crap the players and owners are being ripped for in the last week nothing more than both sides being manipulated by the agents into a deal that benefits neither side, but instead benefits the agents by starting the money teat again?
I’ve come to think you’re seeing a major manipulation (and an attempt to hijack) the negotiation process by the agents, who are using the public rumor mill and their friends in the press to try to drive pressure on both sides to settle, while at the same time playing games with their clients. and what we’re seeing is the results of that campaign, where the agents are trying to create a situation that forces both sides to take a deal neither side seems to want. And if you think about it, the “split it down the middle” $45 million number is the way an agent would think, no?
And that’s something I’ve wondered for a while — where did Eklund come from, and why? What’s HIS agenda, other than ego?
Could he, perhaps, work for an agent? be one? many of his sources sure seem to be coming from there. Is his real purpose not to inform, but to push a third agenda onto these negotiations through public pressure?
Makes one wonder.
Like that’s a big surprise.
Have a nice off-season, hockey fans. see you in October. Maybe.
I will ask this rhetorical question to fans arguing that the owners are lying about how much money they’re losing: if the owners really WERE lying, why didn’t they take any of the offers the players made? If the finances weren’t as bad as the league’s been claiming all along, then many of the deals they forced out of the players would have looked like gravy.
The San Jose Sharks, for what it’s worth, claim they lost $6 million last year, including the revenues generated by going to the Division championship series. And their salary structure is one of the saner ones in the league, to boot.
The owners, IMHO, aren’t doing this to get rich, it’s because they’re tired of going bankrupt. Fans who don’t want to believe this are fooling themselves, and the union did itself a world of hurt by following that path as well. the NHLPA is now fractured and in serious trouble, with internal divisions that will likely take years to fix, if they ever do. it’s power as a unified force is clearly broken.
And lest you think I’m purely an owner butt-kisser, one area I’m extremely disappointed in the owners is the lack of any rational discussion of two issues: revenue sharing and buying out non-viable franchises. Part of the problem here is not a LACK of money, but of a disparity of income between teams, and the NHL hasn’t made any real effort to deal with that part of the problem. The league also has clearly over-expanded, and there are some franchises that the league would be better off without. Buying out franchises also improves the revenue sharing issue, because shared revenues would be split into fewer, larger pieces.
I was never a huge fan of a shortened season, but unlike many fans, I really wanted ot see this solved, even if it meant a 25 game asterisk year — because now, an even worse situation is upon us: the pressure is off to FINISH this deal, as close as they are, and so we’re at risk at not only being forced to watch this fiasco continue into the summer, but it may stretch into next season as well, and I’d rather have ONE asterisk season than two, or many. And that’s now a legitimate risk. Wouldn’t you rather be able to head into summer knowing that next October, opening night will happen as scheduled? we don’t have that guarantee now.
And that sucks.
For those complaining that the two sides should have found a middle ground: you’re right, and you’re wrong. The owners made it clear from the beginning that they wanted certain things in the agreement, and they’ve kept to that consistently. labor negotiations aren’t rational (or necessarily mature) — they’re a huge game of chicken, with both sides holding out and trying to make the other side blink. Ultimately, this cancellation of the season has to be blamed on the union, because the union started blinking, and once it did, it was all over but the shouting. That last round, however, the NHLPA decided it was close enough that the league would have to “come over” and toss the final bone back at the union, allow it to save face.
the union guessed wrong, and the league called the season. The union, in a last ditch effort to claim SOME kind of victory (because, basically, at the end of it, they gave the owners pretty much everything they’d been demanding all along, and that the union said they’d never do) drew a line in the sand when they had no power left, and then got left to watch the tide sweep it away with millions of dollars of player salaries. that miscalculation cost the union big time — and it’s an indication of how badly the league wanted to crush the union’s power as well. And it did.
In a game of five card stud, you can’t fold them by throwing down four cards and expect to keep the fifth. the union tried, and it cost it’s members 25 games in salary. that’s a lesson the players won’t soon forget, and they shouldn’t blame the owners, they should blame themselves and their leaders. Once they caved from their primary position (‘no salary cap ever’), the union basically lost all negotiating power, and should have realized it was time to throw in the last card and get back to playing hockey.
Now, it’s too late.
If I were a player, I’d have Goodenow’s head, today. And I’d find someone to agree to the last NHL deal, so I’d know that come october, I’d have a job. If they don’t do that, god knows when we’ll get a deal and a season.
So the unanswered question of the day is:
Has the quality of the on-ice product improved over that interval?
As a fan, do you believe you enjoy hockey more, or less than you did back in January 1993
These are, in fact, two different questions. And it’s important to understand why they’re different, and why that difference matters.
Is the quality of hockey played today better than it was 12 or 13 years ago? I would argue yes, without hesitation. Ask former players, and they’ll tell you that today’s hockey players are faster, stronger, bigger, better conditioned and better coached than any player from previous eras. The equipment has improved on almost all fronts (the one thing they need to kill are those self-exploding composite sticks that wait for power plays to disintegrate on a regular basis). Most fourth line NHLers today could skate down and take out all but the most elite players of old, and probably catch most of them, too.
That’s a problem when we remember the Good Old Days — everyone remembers Stan Mikita or a young Mario or Bossy or maybe the Sutter brothers. That defines the Good Old Days, not the third liners, or even the second liners. So we tend to remember the super stars and the super plays, and compare it to average play today, and think the Good Old Days were better. That’s a lot like comparing a John Lennon album to your shower singing, or maybe a church choir.
I’ve found it quite interesting to go and watch ESPN classic when they actually show classic hockey (and the 2002 cup finals isn’t classic, sorry) — you can actually watch ALL of the hockey from that era, not just highlights and named stars. IMHO, the hockey of today is a much higher quality of hockey than it was in the early 90′s, although even then, there were significant changes already made when you go back and watch the games of the 60′s or 70′s. By the 90′s, for instance, much of the brawling (hello, Bobby Clark) had already been removed from the game, along with bench clearing brawls and some of the more joyful aspects of the game in the Good Old Days.
One reason, I think, that the stars of before were able to succeed so dramatically is that the difference in quality levels between those elite players was wider then than it is today — the 2nd and 3rd liners just weren’t as good as the journeyman are today, and weren’t as able to contain the top players. As a result, it was easier for a top player to shine and thrive than it is today. If you think about it, if the talent level climbs, it’s a lot harder for the elite player to climb as far as the average player, so I think it’s normal to expect the talent gap between top and bottom across the players to narrow.
On top of that, there’s coaching. Today’s game can be attributed to (or blamed on) three key coaches:
Roger Neilsen, who brought us innovations such as the trap (which is incorrectly considered a bad thing — it’s not the trap, its the obstruction teams use to enforce the trap, folks) and defensive-first hockey. He was one of the first coaches to make players take defense seriously and use it as a strategy of winning games. Again, go back to older games and study the defensive play. Players are very passive, mostly playing a zone box, and rarely challenging the perimeter or against the boards. By playing passively, they allow players to freewheel and set up shots a lot more easily than today’s players that aggressively challenge the puck and remove space and time from the offense. you’d also see the defensemen being a lot more passive, and go back and see what Dmen could get away with as far as crease clearing in the past, and compare it to, oh, Chris Chelios or Derian Hatcher today. Much of what’s considered acceptable today in the slot was not only a penalty, but might have been a major — and since offensive players are allowed to be abused in the slot now, no wonder it limits offensive abilities. but I digress.
Mike Keenan, who may not be my favorite coach, but his impact to the game is unquestionable. He was one of the early coaches to push conditioning as a strategic asset, and more importantly, a coach that innovated the aggressive forecheck. Again, go back and watch classic games, you’ll mostly notice the defense playing a half-court defense, or maybe a 3/4 court. chasing the puck behind the net? throwing in a Mike sullivan type player to harrass the defenseman carrying the puck? Didn’t happen much, if at all. So teams were more easily able to get into the offensive zone and set up offense than they are today. Keenan also brought forward a more aggressive style of attacking the puck, makign sure offensive players couldn’t sit back and pick apart the defense.
Third is Scottie Bowman, who innovated off of both of these innovations (left wing lock, anyone? that freed up the center, who’s generally a more inventive playmaker) and added dozens of twists himself.
But when you’re done with this, the key coaching and strategic innovations in hockey from the 80′s into today were primarily defensive – so no wonder it became harder and harder for offensive players to thrive. The players they were trying to score against got better, their techniques improved, they got more aggressive, were better coached, and in better shape. All of which conspired to make it harder for the offensive skill players to thrive. and I haven’t even mentioned goaltending yet (don’t worry, I will).
And that ties into the second question — the QUALITY of hockey in the NHL is, without question, better now than 10 or 15 years ago. Better talent, better equipment, better coaching, better strategy, better conditioning. better better better.
but — is it more enjoyable hockey? probably not. I’m someone who loves a well-played, well-goaltended 2-1 game, but I think most hockey fans want fancy passing and flowery goal scoring, just as most baseball fans love homeruns over a pitcher’s duel. And today’s hockey is definitely NOT more interesting in the “highlight reel” aspect than it was 10 years ago, much less 20 or 30.
A big reason for that is the improvement in defenses I’ve talked about. but it’s not the only reason.
Another is goaltending — and it’s a huge problem. Just as other players have improved, so have goaltenders. They’re better skaters, in better shape, with massively bigger and lighter gear, and they’re bigger (3-4″ and 30-40 pounds) themselves. They’re much better coached and in most cases have become students of the game. So if you can get through the forecheck, break the trap, set up the offense, create a screen in the slot without Chelios breaking your cheekbone and actually get a shot off against that aggressive pressure on the puck — you still have a goalie that understands positioning and angles better so is less likely to be caught out of position, and if he is, his gear is much larger, so his reach is imrpoved and his ability to get to the puck ANYWAY is better. And if all that fails him, the goalie’s now 6′ tall and 230 instead of 5’8 and 190, so the damn puck is just as likely as not to hit him and bounce off.
and so scoring has tanked. it now requires almost a perfect shot to score, and the aggressive defensive techniques make perfect shots impossible. And people wonder why scoring is falling over? A starting goalie’s GAA and save percentage in 1990 would earn him a backup role in the AHL today.
If that wasn’t enough, let’s talk about expansion coaches a bit. To name just two, Kevin Constantine in San jose and Terry Murray, who took the PAnthers far into the playoffs in 2000. They built on what went before them with Neilsen and Keenan and Bowman, but also realized their job was to win, and winning had no style points. and they realized that if you wrapped your arms around elite players, they had trouble being elite. The clutch adn grab got Florida deep into the playoffs, and the league told the refs to allow it. This is not the coach’s fault, or the team’s, or the referee’s fault. Blame it right on management in the NHL offices, who are the ones who tell the referees what are and aren’t penalties and how to interpret things. And every time they claim to be cracking down, the lower echelon team coaches and GMs call and whine and moan and complain, and the league backs off — encouraging mediocrity to get quiet, not justice. This lack of guts from the league is discouraging, but not surprising. After all, who sets these rules? The board of governors. Who are they? the owners direct representatives. And if you’re the governor from Columbus or Tampa, are you going to say “hey, sure, we’ll enforce things tight, even though it’s bad for my team? It’s for the good of the game”. hell, no, you’ll try to seet things up so your team can win – and the lower echelon teams outnumber elite teams, and nobody has the guts to stand up and say “a penalty in the first period is a penalty in the third. shut up and get better players”
Now, having said that — go back and watch the 2000 playoffs. the league HAS made signfiicant strides in obstruction and other problematic aspects of the game. They just haven’t done close to enough. Reffing in the NHL has a long way to go to become what the NFL has, and don’t for a minute think that’s because I think the NFL is the pinnacle of quality. And I don’t blame the referees themselves, but the people who set policy for (and at) them. it’s an office problem, not an on-ice one.
Reffing in the NHL itself is it’s own essay, but it ties in here as well. suffice it to say, it needs to get better. the move to two refs has been sometimes painful and sometimes frustrating, but I still think it was the right thing to do, but not all of the refs were ready or able, and ALL refs have a learning curve before they really understand and can handle the NHL game and it doesn’t matter how good you were at other levels. But I also think the NHL has screwed around and to some degree screwed up the 2 ref system the last year, adn their early attempt to ‘standardize’ and ‘make objective’ the reffing (in other words, take any personalilty and subjective judgement out of the refs) was an utter disaster, the only greater disaster being the no-tolerance crease rule we all suffered through for a few years.
So I think the hockey is a much higher caliber overall — but less interesting for most fans, unless they are goalie geeks (like Laurie and I are). Defensive play and goaltending have gotten much better in comparison to offense, so offense suffers, and that hurts the game.
it’s something that can be fixed. I think the proposed rule changes (no touch icing, the AHL no-touch areas for goalies, blueline touchups) are all good ideas. We need to go further. If they asked me (which they won’t), I’d focus on two things:
1) bring goaltending back into balance. Goalies have gotten too good. This not only has the obvious problems, but the mental aspect of going up against a modern goalie makes players try too hard, too fast, making good offensive chances even harder. You can’t make goalies go back to being 5’8″ bad skaters with no coaching, but you can limit some of their improvements. smaller gear, moving back to more traditional sizes for blocker, leg pads and catcher is a start. Limiting the goalie mobility is another. If it were me, as soon as the goalie crosses the goal line after the puck, he’s fair game for checking like any defenseman. that’ll never happen, though. too bad. Id’ even go further, and put an extended crease about 5′ beyond the paint. any time the goalie leaves THAT area, he’s fair game. And any time a goalie stops a puck outside of the crease (if you can’t touch the paint, you can’t stop the puck!) — that’s a delay of game penalty. the goalie today has too many advantages, the game has lost its balance. I think we can rebalance that without things like making the goal bigger, but if it takes that — do it.
2) fix the reffing. enforce what’s on the books, in the third as well as the first. really crack down on obstruction. Remember when the NBA outlawed zones? We’re at that point, folks. we need to get the offensive back in the game, somehow. In hockey, aht means removing some of the goalie’s advantage — and limiting the defense’s ability to stifle the offense. I don’t want arena-football-hockey by any means, but it wont’ take too much to get us two goals a game back. tell the lower-caliber teams to learn to play better, not clutch and grab. Give the offense a little more space and time, but not free reign.
All sports go through these cycles. you have to react to them, but not over-react. That’s why the NBA went to no-zone defense (and now that it seems the NBA is street basketball isntead of technical basketball, changing back), and why the NFL is constantly tinkering with pass interference rules — because both leagues understand the need to keep the offense at an acceptable level. it’s time the NHL figure that one out, too.
Eric at Off Wing notes it’s Bettman’s 12th anniversary, and asks the question “is the NHL better off than it was 12 years ago?”
He’s obviously pushing the “hell, no” agenda, but…
Gil Stein was “president-elect”, replacing John Ziegler, who left under various clouds (remember “yellow-jacket-gate”? when a playoff game was refereed by fill-ins when the real refs refused to skate after a suspension was tossed out by the Devils going to court and getting a restraining order?
or remember that Ziegler wasn’t at the playoff game, and nobody could tell us why or where he really was? (turns out, as I remenber, he had a family issue — but nobody could actually tell us that?) — at least Bettman goes to hockey games.
The Minnesota North Stars were just turning into the Dallas Stars? the NHL wasn’t able to survive in one of the TOP hockey regions in the country? (on the other hand, the brand new San Jose Sharks were selling out 110 straight games — and a decade later, still selling out 98% of the tickets each game)
The Mighty Ducks of Anaheim? That was Ziegler’s fault, not Bettman.
So were the Senators, Panthers. and Tampa.
Wayne Gretzky had already been traded to LA in an asset selloff by Edmonton Owner Peter Pocklington, who later went on to be nailed by Alberta on fraud charges over funnelling money out of his oil business to support his hockey team, then later, trying to prop up his oil businesses by sucking his team dry (and trading Gretzky).
Gretzky was traded to the Kings, owned by Bruce McNall — who was convicted of various fraud charges over sale of coins and other investments.
in 1977, the Blues were failing in St. Louis, and sold to — Saskatoon. Then not sold. sort of.
the Quebec Nordiques wouldn’t move to Colorado until 1995, but by the time Bettman came into the league, they were already a failed franchise.
Ditto the Jets in 1996.
Ditto the hartford whalers in 1997. they may have happened on Bettman’s shift, but they were killed by Ziegler and his cronies.
Two words: Alan Eagleson
Remember when the NHL and Ziegler dumped ESPN for SportsChannel, which promised them lots of money but no viewers?
Lots of what people love to blame Bettman for were things done before his time, that Bettman couldn’t fix. By the time he came on board, quebec and winnipeg were corpses, and Hartford was a laughingstock of a franchise. All moved. On the other hand, Bettman fought for and DID keep Calgary and Edmonton in place, when both could have also easily moved south.
the lockout year of 1994-95 was caused primarily from years of duplicity by Ziegler and Eagleson, and a newly aware union of players that realized they’d been sold down the river by those they thought were looking out for their best interests — and the ownership that turtled and signed a contract that was a disaster to get games going again rather than solve the problem that even THEN was clear needed to be dealt with.
In 1990, the average attendance at an NHL game was 14,700. In 2002 it was 16,600.
I could go on, but some of the books I want are in boxes. it’s easy to take swipes at Bettman — but facts are a lot more useful.
Are we better off now than 12 years ago?
Yes. and no.
The NHL pre-Bettman was a corrupt rich boy’s club, where owners got rich and players got dumped on. Ziegler and Eagleson conspired to maek the plyers think the union was standing up for them, but really handed the players off to the owners (we won’t even start on Eagleson’s double-dealings in other areas, adn the pension issues, and the….). Ziegler brought in the Sharks and Tampa (and if you ever want to see an expansion deal that made no sense, research what Esposito did HERE, then saw big bucks in Florida with Huizenga and Anaheim with Eisner — the league (and Bruce McNall, who later went to jail on felony fraud charges and took half of anaheim’s expansion fee as a “territory purchase) laughed all the way to the bank. the league had a solid relationship with espn, and threw it out the window because an upstart cable network offered them way too much money, but no real viewership (the last vestiges of SportsChanne exist as fox sport network affiliates such as Fox Sports Bay Area, after SportsChannel effectively failed). One can only wonder whether that has anything to do with current ratings disasters, or perhaps ABC/ESPNs lack of enthusiasm in hockey. Quebec, Hartford, and Winnipeg were failing. Vancouver wasn’t far behind.
Now, 12 years later, the league is finally trying to fix a contract it should have dealt with years ago. Where franchises failed under Ziegler and had to be moved, Bettman found ways to minimize the currency problems hitting canadian teams, and found a way to keep Edmonton in Edmonton (despite Pocklington’s legal problems and financial implosion) and calgary. Expanding into Atlanta is probably a mistake, but columbus seems like it’s a reasonable place for a team — a lot more reasonable than anaheim or Tampa or (these days) Chicago or the Island, for that matter. The teams that had to be moved may not all be thriving, but they’re doing better than they did in their old cities.
And for all the whining and complaining, despite expanding to 30 teams, average attendance is ALSO up 2,000 a game, league wide.
Now, if the league can’t solve this contract issue, it’s done. failed dead. but given that the reality is the league is losing less money by NOT playing than playing, it’s hard to argue with their hard line that this time, it has to be fixed. And the seeds of this were laid not by Bettman, but by the history of Ziegler and Eagleson colluding, and a set of owners who LAST time, chose to turtle over Bettman’s objections.
Remember: Bettman doesn’t run the NHL. He is the spokesman for the board of governors, who tell him what to do. In other words, he is the mouthpiece and scapegoat for the owners, not their boss. He can’t TELL them to do anything. He can only try to persuade and convince. His job, as much as anything else, is to stand up and take the abuse so the owners can hide and pretend it’s not THEIR fault.
And for all people complain about Bettman, I think, when you start to realize just how screwed up the league was in 1991 and 1992, that yes, we ARE better off now. And if he can actually fix the labor issue, you’ll see the NHL thrive, with or without bettman.
People who think the “good old days” of the NHL before Bettman were really good don’t really remember them. It’s 12 years later, adn Bettman is STILL trying to clean up the damage left behind by his predecessors.