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Breaking down Gary Bettman’s influence among NHL owners

Sep 30, 2012, 10:00 AM EDT

Gary Bettman Getty Images

If you’re hoping that the latest lockout brings an end to Gary Bettman’s run as NHL commissioner, a detailed New York Times piece on his increasing influence won’t inspire confidence.

The piece points back to an interview with Philadelphia Flyers owner Ed Snider, who illustrated how powerful Bettman has become.

“In the old days, basically the owners ran the league and almost ran it into the ground,” Snider said. “Now it’s Bettman’s league. He’s a great commissioner. Basically he’s the force behind everything we do.”

A common defense of Bettman is that he’s often a figurehead merely representing the owners’ collective interest, yet this portrait seems to muddy that perception.

Jeff Z. Klein provides an abbreviated timeline for his rise in power in the eyes of NHL owners.

  • The 1994-95 lockout wasn’t considered a success, yet it taught him to adapt. Bettman altered owner voting rules so that he could only be overruled by a three-quarters majority and also gave himself power to fine an organization for divulging information.
  • Ken Dryden described fiscal discussions with Bettman as visiting the “principal’s office.”
  • The NHL counter-sued the New York Rangers for seeking a site independent of the NHL universe in 2008. The league won soundly enough that Rangers owner James Dolan has been noticeably quiet during proceedings, according to Klein.
  • Finally, it appears that the owners are behind him completely – just like they were during the last lockout.

In other words, Bettman’s as empowered as ever among the league’s owners.

Author Jonathon Gatehouse even provides this account, which might be chilling for Bettman’s greatest detractors:

“If he wins this round, I think he’s emperor for life.”

  1. antkowiak666 - Sep 30, 2012 at 10:11 AM

    Bettman is an evil little troll!

  2. sizzle299 - Sep 30, 2012 at 10:20 AM

    READ: Bettman is a perfect scapegoat for owners to hide behind and deflect blame while they punish the fans because most of them can’t run a business and all of them can’t compromise with the players.

  3. rainyday56 - Sep 30, 2012 at 10:26 AM

    When he made that comment about it hurting him and it was “what he does” when announcing the lock out, it reminded me of Chancellor Palatine in Star Wars: “I love democracy, I love the republic, when the current conflict is under control, I will throw down these powers ….. “

  4. capesouth - Sep 30, 2012 at 10:55 AM

    I don’t know what goes on behind closed doors or if Bettman is good or bad for the league. Most people jump all over him bc that’s what you do…most, I’m sure, don’t even know why..they just dislike him to dislike him. You could argue he is good for the league because IMO, the product is great. Minus the concussion issues, the game is everything it should be. You could also argue that he is the commissioner and it is his responsibility to AVOID lockouts…not trend towards them like he has (what is this? number three under his command?). No matter what side you’re on, the lockouts are far too many and he takes a major part of the blame. For me, I think the great product is a result of everyone in the league working together to create what we see now on the ice. The lockout is the opposite..nobody working together. The difference is, it is Bettman’s job to see that it is handled. He hasn’t done his job in that sense and has continually failed to come through in the end when it comes to lockouts. In simplest terms, he needs to be the ‘guide’ during an issue like this and guide everyone through to a resolution. Instead, he just accepts lockouts…which is literally the worst thing any league can resort to. No games = no fans, no money, no progress, etc. I think hockey has the most to lose during a lockout…more than any other major sport.

  5. Jeff - Sep 30, 2012 at 11:02 AM

    The Klein article is spot on.

  6. capesouth - Sep 30, 2012 at 12:47 PM

    If it’s Bettman’s league than it is entirely acceptable to blame the lockout, and all the time wasted leading up to it, on Bettman. It’s his job to prevent this…not allow it to happen twice a decade and three times in 20 years.

  7. phillyphanatic76 - Sep 30, 2012 at 3:50 PM

    I think most people could predict that Bettman was wielding this type of power. But In this lockout lots of ppl have been trying to defend Bettman as the owners patsy, that he’s just carrying out the will of the franchises, but it’s pretty obvious he makes decisions based off his ego. Yes, he has done some good for the game but he’s also expanded into markets that were doomed from the start. Which puts a lot of strain on the rest of the league. He’s been the catalyst for 3 lockouts, including 2 in less than 8 years. He treats the players like replaceable commodities. And the fans like their only purpose is to pay his grandiose $8 million salary. There isn’t a more condescending figure in sports. He seriously acts as if the fans are too stupid to realize what this lockout is about, like we should just sit back and be grateful that we’re priveleged enough to watch the sport that he has “built”, and not worry about the business issues that are far too advanced for our feeble minds. Hell I’d take Roger Goodell over this guy anyday. And I hate Goodell. It’s long overdue that the emperor of hockey be overthrown and replaced by someone who puts the well-being of the game before their own greedy agenda.

  8. eyeh8goodell - Sep 30, 2012 at 6:29 PM

    No rational person is surprised. These sports commissioners don’t get paid millions to be a PR mouthpiece. The countersuit against the Rangers is a great example. Threatening to strip ownership. That’s when i’d call an owners-ony meeting and say “Ok this has gone way past far enough. We need to call a vote and get rid of this guy”. It’s not like Bettman is the only business man in the world who can manage the league.

  9. gatorjr - Sep 30, 2012 at 10:52 PM

    Bettman is the ultimate head in his a** commissioner who only shows his face when there’s a photo-op or money involved (i.e more for him afterward). Any jerk could do that job!!!

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