What's Missing

Game-canceling NHL chief Gary Bettman is an easy villain, and deserves that status. But he has also reminded fans, in the worst possible way, what the game is worth.
Share |

Before Christopher Nolan made billion-dollar movies about a very rich man angry with the world, he made Following, which is a 70-minute noir that he filmed on 16mm film stock—a far cry from the IMAX cameras Nolan would use for The Dark Knight—and shot on an estimated budget of $6,000. The film was about a floundering writer who follows a thief that doesn’t steal. Instead, he rearranges items, hides jewelry around the house, and places women’s underwear in the apartment in order to incite relationship difficulties.

All sports leagues start off something like Following. Not in terms of the panty-planting or art-stalking, but in the sense that they begin as low-budget entertainments without big names or high hopes; fundamentally, at that point, the leagues are just people mucking about just for the joy of it, if not without some hope of getting paid for it in the future. It's not really innocent, of course. It's just a different type of commerce, if one that's a bit easier to relate to than its mega-sized and metastasized version. Which is what follows, invariably, if the smaller thing works, and grows.

***

The NHL was no exception to this. Forgive this absurdly brief synopsis of the NHL-to-date, but: the league plugged along for its first few decades until it took a hit in the Great Depression/World War II era (who didn’t?) and then aggressively and ambitiously expanded in the 60’s and 70’s (who didn’t?). Unlike Major League Baseball or the NFL currently, it's hard to say the NHL ever had a true Golden Age during which it financially dominated the sports landscape. Even in the Gretzky/Lemieux days, when the hockey stars were brightest and the Great One was the Greatest, it still wasn’t a massive financial payday. You may recall the NBA was going through a Golden Age of its own in the 80’s that took precedent. The defining moment in hockey's U.S. history involves a bunch of college kids in Lake Placid on tape delay. That first miracle has never been matched, and probably never will be.

In 1993, this was all supposed to change. Not in the sense of new miracles, but in the NHL's belated rise into the ranks of the other outlandishly profitable professional sports leagues. Riding the Gretzky-in-Los Angeles wave, Gary Bettman was supposed to accomplish the following goals according to a New York Times article published his first day on the job (with my annotated remarks):

“Put a stop to labor unrest [!!!]; sell the product in television's mainstream marketplace [accomplished for the foreseeable future]; change the violent image of the game [concussions remain a massive issue]; curb salary inflation [perfect, except for the whole salary inflation part];…settle the divisive issue of possible Olympic involvement [“Bettman has not committed to altering the NHL season to accommodate for the Olympics”], and help launch several new expansion teams [more on this later].”

On February 1st, Bettman will celebrate his 20th year as commissioner. The league, which will almost certainly still be locked out, will not celebrate with him. The owners whose side he represents in the third labor-related work stoppage of his tenure may send him an Edible Arrangement or something. It won't be anything too splashy, though. Many of them weren't making much money before the lockout, and all of them currently spend what should be game nights—by their own choice, of course—staring at empty arenas.

***

I’m not an objective observer in the matter. I love hockey for what happens between the boards, and despise Bettman for—among other things—moving my beloved Hartford Whalers to Raleigh, North Carolina and changing their name to the Hurricanes. He did this with several other teams, including the Winnipeg Jets, Quebec Nordiques, and Minnesota North Stars. With only a few debatable cases, the southern migration has proved untenable. The NHL has been paying the city of Glendale some $25 million a year to keep the Coyotes; the Coyotes were formerly the Winnipeg Jets, who, it should be noted, got their team back last year when the Atlanta Thrashers—another of Bettman’s expansion teams—reinhabited Winnipeg. Both Florida teams are unprofitable, and the hockey teams in Columbus and Nashville are doing as well as you would think hockey teams in Columbus or Nashville would do. This is the market expansion Bettman was charged with accomplishing. He accomplished it, and it’s a spectacular clusterfuck.

For all the schadenfreude I derive from Bettman’s failures, I can’t fully condemn him for his role in the current lockout. I mean, I could, it's easy, but it doesn’t matter who is to blame anymore. What matters is that the central fallacy of Bettman's tenure is now quite clear. It's not so much that hockey was never meant for cities like Tampa Bay, Miami, Phoenix, Nashville or Columbus—although the numbers do tend to speak for themselves, there—so much as it is that hockey was perhaps never meant for a mass market in general.

Hockey deserves a large audience, certainly—one that consists of people who love hockey, as well as people who love people who love hockey and are willing to put up with them watching hockey and even make a token effort to pretend to care on occasion, and also for whatever misbegotten offspring issue from the relationship between the hockey-lover and the non-hockey lover. This is the hockey life-cycle. It is not one of aggressive expansion, but one of nurturing and quiet compromise, and one grounded in a peculiar sort of love. Under Gary Bettman, it has frequently been abandoned.

Despite being charged with ending labor unrest, Bettman has presided over three long lockouts: the season-shortening 1994-95 lockout, the season-ending 2004-05 lockout, and the current struggle. Some 2,223 hockey games (and counting) have been cancelled during Bettman’s divisive tenure. The NHL under Bettman is a league of instability—your team may move, your league may halt, your players may depart to skate on faraway ponds smoothed by strange Zambonis. This volatility, paradoxically enough, leads to even greater buy-in from the fans hearty enough to stick with the sport—we treasure every blessed instant of hockey, because since 1995, a lockout or a move or some other willed/dictated/preventable catastrophe has been fresh in everyone’s mind.

No other league deprives their fans of their product with such regularity in the name of making the game more popular. This is The Bettman Paradox: the league that shrinks in order to grow, the league that stops existing so it can continue to exist. And so the Winter Classic won’t be held this year, in front of an expected 110,000 hockey fans and bathed in the glow of universal media isn't-this-great delight, but it won't be held in the name of growing the fanbase. The season looks to be in serious jeopardy, but this is in order to showcase the product down the road. No gameday revenue will be collected, in the name of increasing profits. A more balanced division of revenues between owners and players is sought in hopes of leading to some blockbuster NHL hit down the line. Revenue sharing between the league's wildly and unsustainably unequal teams is… actually not being discussed, but there you go.

In the meantime, we are here. Hockey fans are not necessarily interested in what the league’s future possibilities are—it would be nice if it worked as a business, but as a sport it is already great, and beloved by many, all of whom love the sport and its dominant league for what they are, and have always been. Like his counterparts in the other major leagues, Bettman is an easy villain to target, but perhaps he has a larger, more ignoble-but-not-quite-villainous role to play in our sordid sport.

While Bettman and company will always seek their billion-dollar IMAX hit—some fluke-y Avatar that will pay for the next decade or so of misses—hockey fans have always been satisfied with the black-and-white, 16mm noir. In the beginning of Following, the writer starts shadowing random people in central London as a research method of sorts, and eventually befriends the thief in hopes of finding the great story that will bring him acclaim and success. Once they break into a few apartments together, he asks why the thief does what he does. The thief’s face sinks from congenially evil to purposeful: “You take it all away," he says, “to show them what they had.”

This is overdetermined, maybe, on Nolan's part. It is certainly something worse on Bettman's. But in the end, while Bettman may have taken 2,223 games from fans, he has belatedly made us appreciate what hockey is, and what it's worth. Hockey is, like all sports, something easily appreciated in the abstract, but much more fun in the present tense. For the moment, though, the former—all that abstraction, always and as ever—is all we've got.


Share |

Comments

Which is what follows, invariably, if the smaller thing works, and grows. girlfriend activation system blog

football free bet Awesome advise i mold voice moreover blesss for the info. Erudition is definitely a tacky theme. But, is but between the capital items of our schedule. I value your inform also visage progressive to additional

if one that's a bit easier to relate to than its mega-sized and metastasized version. Which is what follows, invariably, opticians london

Which is what follows, invariably, if the smaller thing works, and grows. loft conversions london

I mean, it is in New York city, which is citation pretty disgusting itself. And some of the people who work there, even if they do make childrens furniture
decent wages, probably don't make enough to afford what is considered a "nice" place to live in New York City.

It is really no surprise that this building was found to have bed bugs infesting it. I mean, it is in New York city, which is pretty disgusting itself. And some of the people who work there,for more even if they do make decent wages, probably don't make enough to afford what is considered a "nice" place to live in New York City. Especially in midtown, of all places.

It is evident from this essay that the source who published this report has a comely decorous cerebral. I assume that this creator wishs a pittance better hand than he normally wins. I seriously deem in you, sir! Safe Work Method Statement Template QLD

Once I thought about things like: why such information is for free here? Because when you write a book then at least on selling a book you get a percentage. Thank you and good luck on informing people more about it…παπουτσια ορειβασιασ

With so many books and articles coming up to give gateway to make-money-online field and confusing reader even more on the actual way of earning money, Hubwit is a refreshing change. I stumbled upon this site while searching for work-form-home options. nutrafarms inc reviews

Awesome blog. I enjoyed reading your articles. This is truly a great read for me. I have bookmarked it and I am looking forward to reading new articles. Keep up the good work!Buy Xanax online

I have express a few of the articles on your website now, and I really like your style of blogging. I added it to my favorite’s blog site list and will be checking back soon…summer camp china

The next time I read a blog, I hope that it doesnt disappoint me as much as this one. I mean, I know it was my choice to read, but I actually thought youd have something interesting to say. All I hear is a bunch of whining about something that you could fix if you werent too busy looking for attention.nejlevnější hypotéka

Took me time to understand all of the comments, but I seriously enjoyed the write-up. It proved being really helpful to me and Im positive to all of the commenters right here! Its constantly nice when you can not only be informed, but also entertained! I am certain you had enjoyable writing this write-up.erhalten eine Kopie

Waltraud Pioch begrüßen Sie herzlich in ihrem Fotostudio “das portrait” in Frankfurt. Fotoatelier für anspruchsvolle Fotografie. what is shared hosting

I’m excited to uncover this page. I need to to thank you for ones time for this particularly fantastic read !! I definitely really liked every part of it and i also have you saved to fav to look at new information in your site.air conditioner repair

Oakville Prom Limos Fantastic announce complete of conducive lagniappes! My spot is fairly additional furthermore I am moreover holding a firm period getting my primers to exit criticizes. Analytics exhibits they are advent to the locale however I hold a passion “nobody likes to be initial

I demand to accept that this is the bulk of finest happy of which I've indeed examined. Truly, it very is. The house are only totally astonished by this dispatch. I love to play deep better info advises love this. wans tv

lowes coupons This is a great inspiring article.I am pretty much pleased with your good work.You put really very helpful information. Keep it up. Keep blogging. Looking to reading your next post.

Absolutely fantastic posting! Lots of useful information and inspiration, both of which we all need!Relay appreciate your work. Social media news

Whats On Netflix
Very informative post! There is a lot of information here that can help any business get started with a successful social networking campaign!

I thought it was going to be some boring old post, but it really compensated for my time. I will post a link to this page on my blog. I am sure my visitors will find that very useful.
photo wedding invitations

I’m excited to uncover this page. I need to to thank you for ones time for this particularly fantastic read !! I definitely really liked every part of it and i also have you saved to fav to look at new information in your site NJ Wedding Limos

Your article tells me you must have a lot of background in this topic. Can you direct me to other articles about this? I will recommend this article to my friends as well.Top Eye Serums

This is my first visit to your site. Today I have got a new site. I am really happy to be here. I am stay tuned here for your next blog. George Divel

watch tv series online free full episodes Lovely deal this. I totally love the way you present your articles. You are such a gem! I want you to keep publishing more great articles like this. I will be pleased, sir.

Women Discount Clothing This new article of yours is a mind-blowing one. There are not many articles which impress me. But, this one has by quite a lot of impressing. I really liked all of the elements in this article and I hope I will see the quality of this article continued in the other articles that you will publish in the future as well.

Blessed I am that I am reading this blessed document these days. I really assumed that the very best of the articles stopped arriving. However immediately after looking over this, my belief rises again! how to get a free ps4

This new article of yours is a mind-blowing one. There are not many articles which impress me. But, this one has by quite a lot of impressing. I really liked all of the elements in this article and I hope I will see the quality of this article continued in the other articles that you will publish in the future as well. affordable web hosting

pakistan web hosting I totally love this. You have laid out the perfect font in this article! Everything in this article is simply great and I couldn't have asked for a better article than this

united kingdom job search engine I am genuinely thankful to the holder of this web page who has shared this wonderful paragraph at at this place.

This is a great inspiring article.I am pretty much pleased with your good work.You put really very helpful information. Keep it up. Keep blogging. Looking to reading your next post. pasto artificial Mexico

Watch ICC Cricket world cup Live Required me time for you to read all of the comments, however i really loved the content. It demonstrated to be really useful in my experience and i'm certain to all of the commenters here ! It's usually nice when you are able not just learn, but additionally entertained !

Best Survey Sites This new article of yours is a mind-blowing one. There are not many articles which impress me. But, this one has by quite a lot of impressing. I really liked all of the elements in this article and I hope I will see the quality of this article continued in the other articles that you will publish in the future as well

ibps cwe po clerk Excellent blog you have here.. It’s difficult to find quality writing like yours nowadays. I seriously appreciate individuals like you! Take care!!

NERDS FOR LESS is an established online liquidator of software, technology, gaming and gadgets. We provide products at unheard of prices by passing the savings onto you. wholesale

Crafts I am very happy to read this article .. thanks for giving us go through info.Fantastic nice. I appreciate this post.

acheter des vues youtube pas cher just looking around some blogs, seems a really nice platform you are using. I’m currently using WordPress for a few of my blogs but looking to change one of them over to a platform similar to yours as a trial run. Anything in particular you would recommend about it?

hurtig lån I will definitely bookmark your website. I am happy to found such useful and interesting post which is written in well maner.I really increased my knowledge after read your post which will be beneficial for me

I just got to this amazing site not long ago. I was actually captured with the piece of resources you have got here. Big thumbs up for making such wonderful blog page! Geneva to Verbier

Admire it regarding positioning the comely amuse…I was summary set regarding a manifold regular this…I identified that can peaceful good, employing likelihood, you would perhaps store positioning a immense sum of blogs. Desert Safari Dubai Tour

sopocisko.com.pl Some countries have good city which people want to visit. The city has been part of the trademark of the united states. People from foreign should visit it because they need to experience something new.

sopocisko.pl Thanks for ones marvelous posting! I genuinely enjoyed reading it, you are a great author. I will be sure to bookmark your blog and may come back very soon.

Great post i must say and thanks for the information. Education is definitely a sticky subject. However, is still among the leading topics of our time. I appreciate your post and look forward to more Romance novel

ecommerce seo I will definitely bookmark your website. I am happy to found such useful and interesting post which is written in well maner.I really increased my knowledge after read your post which will be beneficial for me

postcard marketing business opportunity I gotta tell you that I am really pleased and impressed with the article. I was just hoping for this kind of article and thank God I finally got something like it.

Social media news I was very encouraged to find this site. I wanted to thank you for this special read. I definitely savored every little bit of it and I have you bookmarked to check out new stuff you post

Affilorama 2015 Truly, this article is really one of the very best in the history of articles. I am a antique ’Article’ collector and I sometimes read some new articles if I find them interesting. And I found this one pretty fascinating and it should go into my collection. Very good work!

Excellent blog you have here.. It’s difficult to find quality writing like yours nowadays. I seriously appreciate individuals like you! Take care!! fat loss factor review

شركات نقل العفش بالرياض As a family, we really enjoyed watching all three movies on three consecutive days. this thing doesn't slow down not for a minute, I put whole apples in it, carrots, celery, banana's, even broccoli nothing seems to phase it.

Well most of you are not aware of what all things should be kept in mind while buying these supplements. Here in this discussion we are going to provide you the details of what all factors are necessary to know about the HGH supplements jual follower instagram murah