Should, and can, Bettman go?

With this first glitter of optimism we’ve received in weeks—generated, perhaps tellingly, by meetings where the NHL Commissioner and NHLPA head were both absent—I’ve found myself thinking about the prospect of seeing hockey this year. Up until today I’d just about given up on that notion. Goes to show how even the cynical like me can be bent by a mildly positive though largely ambiguous headline.

It also speaks to how little we fans may expect from either side in terms of PR, and how little we received. I’ve never felt like either side was invested in the feelings of the fans, except to the degree they could manipulate fan sentiment as leverage in their negotiations. Such is the magnifying effect of the 24 hour news cycle. What is a group of rich people fighting over how much richer one side gets to be than the other turns into the same group of rich people biting the hand that feeds them. Given how badly this thing has been cocked up, I can’t help but think some kind of overture has to be made to the fans to get them back on side; I’ve never heard people sound as cynical as they have these past two months.

Which makes the following question both a bit compelling and also completely ludicrous: is the best thing the league can do to make amends with the fans to axe Bettman?

It would be succumbing to an unfair stereotype—Bettman answers to the owners, after all. But consider that 1) Bettman is a convenient stand-in for the greediness of the owners and the brokenness of this negotiation process; 2) There are many skilled, cut-throat former lawyers who could play the role of facilitator and administrator, and 3) maybe it’s healthy to have a little bit of turnover at the top, especially when your guy has been in his role for almost 20 years. This track record of lockouts is not synonymous with Bettman’s track record. For better or for worse, Bettman is the brand.

How many more years do you want this guy booed every time he steps up to a microphone, be it at the draft or handing out the Stanley Cup? This is supposed to be the face of ownership, the powerful mask of the league itself. Fair or not, Bettman’s as divisive a figure as you’ll find in professional sports, and after yet another lockout I can’t imagine there aren’t enough owners in that board room to do the ultimate shanking in blaming this whole fiasco on him. They could wash their hands of the whole situation and get back to the business of making money.

Unlikely to happen, of course, as Bettman has created the ultimate insiders’ club. And there’s nothing more appealing to the rich white man who has everything than membership in an exclusive club. He’s ingrained himself with the league’s identity. But we might be starting to see the beginning of a fan backlash that could be counteracted by the appearance, if certainly not the reality, of regime change.

4 thoughts on “Should, and can, Bettman go?

  1. “3) maybe it’s healthy to have a little bit of turnover at the top, especially when your guy has been in his role for almost 20 years.” Fix 20 for seven or eight by the time Murray’s contract is done and I’d like to see the same thing said about him. How long do I need to wait to see my team win in the playoffs and how long am I expected to care about Bingo, when it’s a lower-value version of Vanier?

    This contract should be Murray’s last as GM and that includes Tim. The team needs someone that will focus on making this group get over the first-round hump at the very least, and that will never happen under current management, seemingly content to hand out prospect porn instead of setting expectations of NHL playoff success.

    • JMO, but Murray has done alot of good with this team. Focusing on building for the future as opposed to trying to find the quick fix now is the new NHL. We all saw how Kovalev worked out. Murray stocking the cupboards is a smart move. Gives a lot of potential for development, or trade bait. Even if Murray walks, the next guy isn’t left with a Toronto sized mess to clean up. I definitely would love to see the boys make it over the first round hump, but with soo much parody in the NHL nowadays, any team could be 1 roster move away from a playoff caliber team….well most. Our boys took the first place team in the east to 7 games, and that team went on to the eastern conference finals. They also had a payroll of…(fill in blank here) and Hank Lundqvist. Sorry for the rant…it’s just been soo long since I could talk hockey.

      Thanks for your time

  2. I think while it’s generally true that Bettman is the mouthpiece for a cadre of greedy owners, he’s not merely an automaton–and when you objectively look at his body of work as commissioner, it’s hard to feel he’s been successful at any of the mandates handed to him by the owners. That alone should doom his fate.

  3. Everyone hates this guy even though he’s only a flag man for the owners. As stated Bettman was the perfect fit for the job; ex-lawyer with a stiff upper lip and skin thick enough a rhino would be jealous. Given the mob mentality of hockey fans, most would be ecstatic to see him go failing to realize the next guy will have the same pedigree, same resume, and the same cut-throat attitude. At heart it isn’t this guy everyone hates (but it is easy to hate him) but the ownership pulling his puppet strings.
    But seriously…..wouldn’t you just love to punch him right in the yap just once? Boot him and the fans will come running back.

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