I realize that as a Sabres fan who is writing a Buffalo Sabres blog I will be judged harshly for what I am about to write. It is widely known that Buffalo Sabres fans do not like Gary Bettman, there are number of reasons why. The biggest and most important reason for the strong dislike would be the infamous "NO GOAL" by Brett Hull in game six of the 1999 Stanley Cup Finals. The series clinching goal was obviously scored with Brett Hull standing in the crease but Bettman continually tried to justify that it was a legit goal. In addition to the "NO GOAL" controversy there was the way Bettman handled the Sabres bankruptcy situation. He continuously threatened the Buffalo community that the team would be moving if they did not come out and support the team despite the league putting an inferior product on the ice.
With the pleasantries out of the way it's finally time to defend Gary Bettman, that's right I said defend Gary Bettman. It's not the most popular thing to do, which is evident in this recent story in the Toronto Globe and Mail. There is plenty of criticism that can be directed towards Gary Bettman but that comes with his job, I think this story is unfair to the commish.
There are a couple of ways one might describe the Gary Bettman era in the NHL.
Unequivocal failure would be one.
Or for those more generous of spirit, perhaps … making the best of extremely challenging times for the game of big-league professional hockey in North America, giving it the old college try and, ultimately, sadly, falling far short.
Really? Unequivocal failure? I think there are plenty of good things that Gary Bettman has done for the game. In my opinion the game has , and continues to grow everyday.
But who would like to step up right now and make the case that the NHL is better off on Versus than on ESPN? That failed television strategy is one of the hallmarks of the Bettman regime.
How can anyone blame Gary Bettman for the NHL leaving ESPN and going to OLN (now Versus)? It doesn't take much research to find out that ESPN dropped the NHL because of the lockout. They were not going to pay the NHL to televise games and the league scrambled to find a network that was willing to ante up. It wasn't much but the league found a network to televise the games and they paid for it. ESPN has not always been the powerhouse sports network it is today, in fact the NHL was on ESPN long before they hit the big time.
Then there's the new economic system, achieved at the terrible cost of a cancelled season. The salary cap is being driven ever higher by the Canadian boom, to the detriment of struggling U.S. teams, which have no way of keeping up. (Never mind that the American economy has fallen into recession, that there's a continuing credit crisis and that more than a few U.S.-based NHL club owners might be feeling awfully vulnerable right now.)
It's amazing how people will spin the facts in order to make their point seem more relevant. I don't think anybody, including Gary Bettman, wanted to see the NHL lose an entire season but the reality is...it was necessary. The lockout achieved a salary cap that allows most teams to compete on more level ground. The Buffalo Sabres are the perfect example of a team that could not compete under the old economic system but they are able to compete under the current system. There are obvious concerns about escalating salaries but it is still better than it was prior to the lockout.
It is apparent that the purpose of this story is to criticize Gary Bettman in an attempt to show why Canada deserves another hockey team. As a hockey fan I would agree that another team in Canada would flourish and would be great for hockey. I don't think that spinning facts does any good in proving that point. The fact remains that the NHL is in better economic shape now than it was five years ago and Gary Bettman deserves at least some of the credit for that.