Hate the Player...
by Michele Christopher

Bon_cop_bad_cop.jpgToday I’m going to talk to you about the most beloved man in hockey. Nope, not Walter Gretzky and it’s not Jim Balsille* either. I man I speak of is strong of mind (even if he’s wrong), has a will of steel (but no brass balls), and is dragging the NHL kicking and screaming into the future...

Gary Bettman

Did I say beloved? Sorry, typo, I meant beHATED. Je ne like him pas, as they say in Hull. He tries, but he never quite gets it, does he? To fully understand my, and Canada’s, um – dislike, of Bettman, all you have to do is watch the hysterical Canadian film “BON COP, BAD COP”, it even explains why Eric Lindros cannot go into the province of Quebec, but I digress. Find this movie, download it, do whatever while I explain the phenomenon that is Gary Bettman.


Where to begin...

a) He’s grown the league. He’s grown the league into markets where no one has ever heard of Hockey, without adequate marketing and has “moved” teams from money making markets into these untraditional markets. Points for trying something new, three frozen pucks to the head for being a dumbass about it.

b) During his tenure, revenue has increased across the league by $1.2 billion. WHOOT right? Most of that revenue has come from increased ticket and merchandise sales from established markets, at least four teams have declared bankruptcy and a few are teetering on the edge (salary cap or not).

c) Raised attendance, overall. Again, propped up by the established league and creative accounting practices. Many tickets at money losing American venues (like Nashville) are either given away or sold for lower than the face value, pumping up the attendance numbers that Bettman likes to keep shoving in our faces every time he gives an interview.

d) TV Coverage. Canada’s covered by the CBC; Hockey Night in Canada is an institution – you have to be able to at least hum the theme song if you want to get Canadian citizenship. The US, however, has a problem. How many homes get OLN? Heard of it? Thought so. Bettman’s lost season (see The Strike, below) cost him the ESPN contract and viewership is down 60%. If it was regular TV he’d be so cancelled.

e) The Strike. A year without NHL hockey! Hockey arenas around North America were filled with people trying to get their hockey fix. I know my local Junior A team (GO COUGARS!) saw a jump in attendance. Really though, it was horrible and I will NEVER forgive Bettman or the NHLPA head** (whose name I refuse to even type) for making hockey go away. There is a special place in hell for both of them, preferably together, giving each other red hot magma sponge baths, for all eternity.

adult_hockey_fight.jpgBON THINGS...

a) Changing the Team Conferences from Wales and Campbell to East and West. I know it was tradition, but it always confused me. A happy Deb is one who knows what’s going on.

b)NHL participation in Olympic Games. Even though Bettman didn’t want to do this, he was finally convinced in time for the Salt Lake City games. By allowing NHL players to participate in the games he raised the visibility and profile of the game world wide and more importantly in the US. So he gets point, even though he was forced into it.
New Rules. Say what you will about the things in the “BAD” section but Bettman’s salvation lies in the new rules. Faster game play, hurry up line changes, two line passing, goalie restrictions and rules that crack down on interference and obstruction in the neutral zone have made the NHL game a better one to watch.bettman 01.jpg It was getting to the point where you couldn’t tell the players hockey skill level, only their interference skill level. We actually get to see passing, playmaking and, yes children, some great fights. The only rule I am having a hard time loving is the shootout. It seems cheap to me. If a goalie has had a great game, bringing it to a tie at the end of the third, all the weight now rests on his shoulders; it’s no longer a team game.


Bettman is a man on a mission and, like NASA, not every plan has worked out the way he wanted it. Sure his (mis)management skills were there to see before he was hired away from the NBA (another sport that was invented by a Canadian by the way). It was even confirmed when Business Week magazine named him one of the worst managers of 2005.

Commissioners are never loved. The best that he can hope for is to die in their sleep is to be remembered for at least one good (or okay) thing that they did. I just hope for Bettman’s sake that the improvements are enough.

We just have to learn not to hate the player.

* Dude who’s the CEO of “crackberry”, aka RIM, and just bought the Pittsburg Penguins.

** Some of the players don’t even like him, Chelios is getting a group together to sue him for not representing their interests…

Deb is fluent in two languages, English and Franglais (or Fringlish); she is taking applications for tutors in the language of love.



i totally agree with you on the shootouts.

It's like the goalie looks at the coach and says "Why am I here? I did good, dammit! They couldn't score! Them! They fucked up! Why am I here?"

actually, that's kinda funny when it happens


I am loaded and sitting here scratching my nuts and all I really want to say is that I love hockey. My kings got dicked-in-the-dirt by Dallas of all teams fuck them anyway tonight but whatever. I'm going to hit the "post" button before I thinkn better of it.

yeah I am from california. I am a new hockey fan. go easy, ok


Bettman is the devil. That's all there is to it.

Bring back old time hockey. Eddie Shore!


Somebody seriously needs to run over Bettman with a zamboni.

I HATE the shootout. HATE HATE HATE. Even if my team were constantly on the winning end of the shootout, I'd still hate it. Like you said, the shootout is no longer a team game. It all rests on the goalie.


I just want to take this opportunity to say

Hot Magma Sponge Bath


Not a fan of the shootout here either, it's a lame way to get the win if you ask me. But I do like a lot of the other changes, like you said, especially the two line pass.

And I don't really understand why there are teams in places like Pheonix and Nashville. The B's played in Atlanta the other night and the stands looked deserted. But whatever.

This column rules by the way!!


at first, i misread one of the above comments to read run over Bettman with a zombie, and i was like--i AGREE!! but then i realised it said zamboni, which while making much more sense, is perhaps not sufficiently bad enough for the man who lost me a whole goddamn season of the greatest sport on earth.

i still can't believe the kings lost to dall-ass. what the fuck people?? dall-ass?? argh. at least the devils won their game, so all is not lost.

while i really fucking hate the flyers, i am sort of hoping to take my toddler to his first game this year. it'll be rad.


Two line pass - Good
Shoot-out - Not
Getting rid of the "Neutral Zone Trap" - Great

Give Bettman a break he came from "Stern-land" where the marketing and making of individual stars was/is the top priority, unfortunatly, that doesn't work in a sport where every player wears a helmet and their names are unpronoucnable.

I was in LA when Gretzky was traded to the Kings, until then I could walk up and buy a ticket on either blueline for like $20, after the trade, I couldn't afford parking, thats one of the things that really hurt the NHL. I think they addressed it with the "Caps" both max and minimum will help the league grow again, should they slash a few teams? You bet'ya they should, will they, no. I would love to tsee the NHLwhere it was say in the mid to late 90's, great fan support, sold out houses each night, etc, but it's going to take a while, just like baseball, hockey will return.


That's the problem in my mind, Michael. Modeling everything after Stern.

To start with, the NBA has a much larger fan base to work with. They weren't really having the problem of bringing new fans in, but of keeping the ones they had. The NHL needed to bring new people in while still catering to their existing fan base.

The NBA to me is too glitzy. They are like the Vegas of sports while the NHL is some crap slot machine joint outside of Reno.

I have no idea where I'm going with this, except to say that I think Bettman tried too hard to do too many things too fast.

Old time hockey.

I swear, bring back the bench clearing brawls.


I swear, bring back the bench clearing brawls.

why, i think that brought a tear to my eye...


Michelle, I totally agree, we both grew up on the Island watching the Islanders and Flyers go at it each and everytime they faced each other, Clark Gilles, Dave Schultz, etc..., the problem with that was, it worked in the original six cities, it didn't play so well in Peoria, which is where you have to go for new fans, so yes they had to try and break the sterotype of hockey just being "furriners" with sticks beating up on each other. And lets face it, with the Devils winning the cup for what seemed like 10 years with the "Trap" slowing the game to a freakin crawl, they lost some fans who watched for the speed and continuous action, so they have to begin again. And I think Bettman knows this now.


Wasn't it just last season or maybe the season before where somebody from the Leafs went into the stands to fight with a fan? Or am I totally wrong? Doy.


Shootouts MAY be understandable in, say, the Olympics or the Playoffs when SOMEONE needs to be the clear winner, but they are not needed in the regular season. Otherwise I hate them.

Seriously, I remember when hockey was grainy, poorly lit, no helmets and plenty of brawls; but it was really fast. Like Michael said – the trap killed the pace.

I don’t really follow basketball (did I mention that it was invented by a Canadian? And the MVP for the last two seasons has been a short (relatively) white boy from Canada? – I still don’t watch basketball though), so I have only a vague idea of who Stern is(was), but you can definitely see the influence that it’s had over Bettman and his ruining running of the game.

One of his many mistakes was trying to sell the GLAMOUR of the NHL. Hockey may be many things, but babies, it is not a glamour sport. Michelle is right, we need the sport to return to it’s old time hockey values. Where they were gladiators and really didn’t need a full set of teeth.


Mark – I like new fans, they’re easier to train =) and there’s medication for the itching.


Ernie – I’m all for spreading the love of hockey into new venues, but jeebus – it has to be done carefully and with the proper promotions in place. Carolina is coming up, but that’s just because of the Cup win last season. Bettman is just hoping that the other expansion teams do well enough to draw more fans in (cuz who doesn’t like bandwagon hoppers). The problem with that is that the “new” fans don’t stick it out when the team has a bad season; I guarantee you that if Carolina sucks this season you’ll see their season ticket sales drop like a puck.

Lisa – I believe Chelios et al are taking applications ;-)

dynamine – Zombies would make the commercial breaks (at the games) more interesting to be sure, just don’t tell Bettman.


Domi in Philly...



Yeah. That was awesome! I love how the 'fan' is totally discombobulated at the end of the fight. His shirt is over his head, his sneakers are off... Hilarious. And all the other fans just drinking beers as they walk that guy out. Awesome. I love hockey.


I love that video, mostly because the colour guy and play-by-play guy (Harry Neil & Bob COle) are hilarious.


BWAHAHAHA.! holy shit. that's funny as hell...i hate the flyers with a passion, ironic that i live in philly.


Michele with the Eddie Shore reference--NICE!!

Cities that cannot produce natural ice should not have hockey teams--all I'm sayin'...


War Red Wings!


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