With less than a month remaining before the current NHL Collective Bargaining Agreement is set to expire, Commissioner Gary Bettman has been talking tough, threatening yet another lockout unless the owners demands are met. The initial CBA proposal unleashed by the NHL received general ridicule from the hockey media, where the player offer was considered fair, if not compromising. One thing is becoming increasingly clear as these "negotiations" deteriorate, Gary Bettman needs to be fired. He needs to be fired not just for the benefit of hockey fans, but also the owners who pay his excessive salary. This widely reviled figure has become a hindrance to healthy labour negotiations.
So why should Gary Bettman be fired? Here are 5 reasons.
1) He's a douchebag. Yes, in my quasi-professional opinion as a hardcore hockey fan, I hate Gary Bettman and I'm not alone. No other professional commissioner gets booed as frequently and as passionately as Gary, pretty much everywhere he goes. It would seem as though the court of public opinion doesn't matter to the league's owners as they continue to allow a toxic figure to be their representative. He's like a cheap outcast from a Bond villain casting couch, and now the large majority of fans are on the player's side. Is there no leverage in having public opinion supporting your cause? It might not matter, but it should matter.
2) If the NHL were an episode of Sesame Street, we'd have to play the game "several of these things do not belong here"; namely hockey franchises struggling in weak hockey markets that were moved there under Gary's watch. Phoenix is dying. The Atlanta Thrashers have already moved to Winnipeg, while Florida, Nashville, Dallas and others find themselves in perilous financial positions. I'm not sure the Columbus Blue Jackets have ever turned a profit. The worst example though is Phoenix, a team that should have been moved 3 years ago when they had a buyer, "money bags" Balsille. The team has been bleeding money ever since, with the owners picking up the tab. Millions of dollars they never would have had to pay if the Coyotes were playing in Hamilton.
3) Boots Del Biaggio was his name-o. Before Bettman ever went to court to block Balsille from relocating the Coyotes to a healthy hockey market, he did the same thing in Nashville. He found a hand picked stooge to save the Predators franchise, a man who would end up being convicted of fraud for falsifying documents used to obtain the loan to buy his share of the team. Rather than skeletons in his closet, Gary has Boots.
4) We lost an entire season to get a system Bettman insisted we needed; a system that 7 years later with revenue at record levels, Bettman now insists is flawed/broken and needs an overhaul. If the system we have now is broken, when Bettman got everything he wanted, who's fault is that exactly? What broke first, the chicken or the egg? He was either wrong then or he is lying now. Most of us are convinced that the system in place is working just fine and should be extended as is., and we don't trust Gary Bettman to give us a correct or honest appraisal of the state of NHL hockey.
5) He gets paid too much. $8 million dollars per season is far more than this man is worth. There are a lot of people out there who can do a far better job at a far cheaper price. At least demand a 25% rollback in his salary. Hold a chunk of it in escrow in the event that NHL revenue falls.
The biggest problem facing the NHL are the dying franchises, but the majority of the league is in a very healthy financial position. It would seem that if you want to solve the most serious problem, revenue sharing would do a Hell of a lot more than turning back the clock on free agency. Why should the players and fans pay a heavy price because Gary helped moved franchises to markets with no business hosting NHL hockey teams? This entire predicament rests entirely on Gary's shoulders, no matter which way you slice it. I would encourage all hockey fans to send a Tweet to the Twitter hashtag #FireBettman. This needs to be done, as we are leaving the future of our game in the hands of a deviant who does not deserve the privilege.