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Sports: Hero Or Villain? – The Bettman Saga

In most stories there is a protagonist and an antagonist. During the course of such narratives we tend to be given reasons to cheer for the hero (protagonist), and loathe the villain (antagonist). Eventually, the hero saves the day and defeats the villain. However, once in a while a story comes along that doesn’t follow this format. There’s tales in which the “good guys” of the world are the villains. Where am I going with this? I’d like to introduce Gary Bettman, “Hockey’s Most Powerful Man.” A.K.A. Public Enemy Number One.

The way I see it, Gary is just a guy who’s received a bad rap for being logical. Sure, he has made many mistakes during his tenure as Commissioner of the NHL, but nevertheless I’m here to back him up.

Gary is most infamous for his supposed “hatred” of Canada. During the expansion era of the 90′s, 2 of Canada’s 8 teams were shipped out to serve south of the 49th parallel. Struggling Canadian markets such as Calgary and Ottawa seemed doomed under Bettman’s iron fist, but survived their worst financial times because Bettman gave them a chance. It’s not often you hear “Hey, remember when Bettman didn’t move Canadian teams?”

Not long ago, you probably heard all about the debacle between Bettman and Jim Balsillie. It all started when Balsillie tried to buy the Pittsburgh Penguins during their greatest slump. All Canadians were cheering for the Blackberry boy because of his intentions to move the team here. Furthermore, it seemed the Pens were a team with no hope left, but Bettman saw something more. If not for his vision, the Penguins wouldn’t have gone on to capture their 3rd Stanley Cup and build a brand new arena. Besides Pittsburgh, Gary has also improved the league as a whole.

During the ’04-05 lockout, face-lifts for the game’s “on- and off-ice” products occurred. After years with this “New NHL,” I recently decided to watch a game from back in 2004, and let me tell you, the improvements are enormous! I am so tired of hearing people who “want the old game back”. If it weren’t for Bettman being a stubborn man with a plan, the NHL would not be in the great shape it is today. Because of him, the NHL is one large ESPN contract away from competing with the NBA.

The examples of Bettman’s power are endless, and that won’t be changing any time soon. Although his public image is tainted, he continues on ignoring his critics. It may be that he actually cares about the NHL so much that he’s willing to sacrifice his public persona for its success. Or, perhaps he really is just a greedy, selfish and stubborn man like we are so often told. Hero or villain, one thing is for sure: Gary Bruce Bettman has superpowers and he’s not afraid to use them.


  • Jon.Godfrey

    Connor… I hate hockey with a passion!!! However, I loved reading this. I love business, and I always love seeing someone successful at it. THANK YOU :)

  • John Gerontzos

    Great piece Connor! I’m on the fence with Bettman, I really do feel he has a bias in regards to the US which has hurt us as Canadians. Most experts point to struggling franchises in Florida, etc and wonder why they are not being retracted or sold as easily as Winnipeg and Quebec were.

    That said Gary has done a great job from the business side of things. Thanks for pointing out that he has done as much good as he has done bad.

  • Anonymous

    Incredible piece! I’ve been waiting for so long to read this and it didn’t disappoint me!!! You really bring a unique perspective, on Bettman, sometimes it’s so hard to see the good that people have done, when everyone else is focused on the negative.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000583209773 Sabrina Camp

    i’m a HUGE hockey fan.
    loved the blog.
    liked the spin you put on ‘public enemy number one.’
    and the cartoon to go with.
    go leafs go (had to add that) lol.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Christopher-Michael-Elliott/500513490 Christopher Michael Elliott

    Connor, great piece buddy. I very much respect your strong stance. Keep up the on point perspective partner! Alliteraaaaaation!

  • Leafsfan_9

    The only reason I dislike him is that he’s all about making hockey big in the United States. It’s never gonna be as big as it is in Canada, and he can’t see that. Also, he’s trying to keep a team in Phoenix that the fans do not support. Last night, 6,000 fans were in attendance. Are you kidding me!?

  • Will Gabriel

    Wow Connor this is one impressive article, Bettman has made the sport worse. Although he has done a few good things for the sports, the majority of things have been bad. I mean how could you like a guy who caused us to lose hockey for an entire year.

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