SBD/December 17, 2013/Leagues and Governing Bodies

Bettman Receiving Praise From Columnists For Putting NHL On Steady Course

Bettman has the league in possibly its most stable phase in his tenure
For the first time since becoming NHL Commissioner in '93, Gary Bettman is not overseeing any "wild, burning-out-of-control brushfires" that observers could point to as "evidence of a league that obviously doesn't have its house in order or is playing some kind of shell game," according to Damien Cox of the TORONTO STAR. It is "hard to recall a time post-1967 when there has been quite this stability there is now" off the ice. While stopping short of calling this a "golden era," Cox notes the NHL has "never been bigger, has never attracted the revenues it does now." Cox: "If there is trouble, it is contained to the ice for now, and the width and breadth of it depends on how you view the suspension-a-day realities and the increasingly questioned role of fighting in the sport" (THESTAR.com, 12/17). In Denver, Adrian Dater wrote Bettman deserves "several stick taps" as the league after signing its 12-year, C$5.2B Canadian TV-rights deal is suddenly "hanging with the big boys again when it comes to TV money and presence." Bettman after making the deal is "laughing now, all the way to the bank." He also deserves praise for the way he "shrewdly played the long game coming out of the 2005 lockout, spurning an insulting offer from ESPN to retain the NHL's broadcasting rights and building the product back up on other networks." Furthermore, he "smartly oversaw the development of a great league website and made deals with other Internet platforms that made highlights and other game action more accessible." NHLers are "making more now, on average, than they ever have," as the league's salary cap next season "will be an all-time-high" of $71M, with a floor of $52M. His "stubbornness" at the time of the most recent lockout, "in waiting out the players, drew criticism from many quarters but now has proven to have been not only the right thing to do, but the smart thing" (DENVER POST, 12/15).

TITANIC ISSUE: Former NHLer Morris Titanic is among the group of players suing the league, and in Buffalo, John Vogl noted the timing and inclusion of players like Titanic have "led some to deem the lawsuit a money grab." But Titanic said, "From my observation, the guys that are saying negative things about it are the guys that are invested in the game. They’re either in broadcasting or working for a team or they’re trying to work for a team. ... Only playing 19 games for Buffalo didn’t much matter. You’re playing somewhere. Whether things happened while you were in Buffalo, in the American League, junior, who knows?" While the suit "does seek monetary damages, the retired players also are seeking an NHL-funded monitoring program that would test them for brain disorders and provide treatment." Titanic: "The one thing I guess you can say is positive about it is it certainly has put player safety and head injuries into the limelight. If it helps me, if it helps past players that might need some help, especially as they start to get older and find some stuff out, then that’s a good thing" (BUFFALO NEWS, 12/15).

FIGHTIN' WORDS: Bruins LW Shawn Thornton was suspended 15 games for his fight with Penguins D Brooks Orpik, and in Boston, Stephen Harris noted the length of Thornton’s suspension was "surprising for many, with most onlookers anticipating a ban of 10-12 games." Bruins President Cam Neely: "Higher than I expected and higher than I think is warranted" (BOSTON HERALD, 12/15). Meanwhile, NESN's Dale Arnold was asked if the NHL is in a better spot as far as player safety in light of all of the recent suspensions throughout the league. He said, "Absolutely not and it's the players' fault. ... The players have a lack of respect for their fellow players. It bugs the heck out of me." NESN's Barry Pederson, on more suspensions coming down to NHL players for illegal hits: "It starts to feel a little bit like the NFL football where when you start to read the rules, it looks like a lawyer drew them up and there's a lot of gray areas now" ("The Instigators," NESN, 12/13).
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