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Despite struggles, Gary Bettman will be around for a long time

Mar 11, 2011, 11:00 AM EDT

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Gary Bettman AP

In the wake of a turbulent week (to say the least) for NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, some hockey fans might be wondering if his days are numbered. The truth is that those numbers might be in the thousands.

The Globe & Mail’s David Shoalts reports that the Board of Governors’ executive committee approved a five-year contract extension for Bettman in November.

Some might rush to judgment that this has been the worst week of his reign, but it’s hard to say. Whether the blame deserves to go to him or not, Bettman resided over such rocky moments as the year-long lockout, the Todd Bertuzzi incident and the Dead Puck Era. Sure, the non-suspension on Zdeno Chara, the Air Canada oddness and the latest chapter in the Phoenix Coyotes debacle make for an awful seven days, but he’s been through plenty of storms in his years at this post.

The one group of people Bettman never lost is the most important one: the owners (or at least the owners who determine whether he gets paid big bucks as the puck commish). Shoalts reports that there might be some thought that the deal might show signs of “cronyism,” especially in the wake of the Boston Bruins’ good luck in terms of recent suspension rulings.

What will surely fire up the conspiracy theorists, who have been venting loudly on all forms of media following Zdeno Chara’s hit on Max Pacioretty of the Montreal Canadiens, is the identity of the driving force behind Bettman’s new contract. It is Jeremy Jacobs, the NHL’s chairman of the board of governors who just happens to own the Boston Bruins, the team that employs Chara. However, as chairman, one of Jacobs’s duties is to keep the commissioner and the other key executives of the NHL under contract.

Bettman confirmed via e-mail he received an extension. “Old news. I believe my contract has been extended four times, each time with the approval of the board of governors,” he said.

One governor said he believes Bettman also reached an understanding with the executive committee that deputy commissioner Bill Daly and chief operating officer John Collins will also be retained beyond this season. Daly, who earned $1.9-million last season, would only say he does not have a contract.

Jacobs and Bettman are thought to have a close relationship and at least one owner thinks the contract extension smacks of cronyism but some of his fellow governors differ. One said Jacobs made the move with an eye toward the end of the collective agreement in September, 2012.

Bettman’s recent press conferences might give a vague sense of fatigue, but it sounds like he won’t be going anywhere soon.

(H/T to George Malik.)

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