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Sports Executive of the Year: Gary Bettman, NHL

Gary Bettman took home the highest honor in sports business when he was named Sports Executive of the Year. He accepted the award during the middle of the NHL playoffs and noted that usually he’s handing the Stanley Cup trophy to the league’s champion this time of year, not receiving an award. Bettman said, “It’s almost an out-of-body experience. This time of year, I’m normally presenting a trophy and getting booed. To receive one and get applause is really quite novel.”

The recognition came following a 10-year turnaround at the NHL. Bettman canceled the 2004-05 season because of labor difficulties and postponed the 2012-13 season for another labor negotiation. But in 2013, the league hit its stride. It realigned conferences, signed record TV rights deals in Canada, created a series of outdoor games and found new ownership groups in Phoenix, New Jersey and Florida. Bettman credited his entire team at the NHL, its players and fans for his recognition. He said, “I am fortunate to be part of an organization of hundreds of people. This award isn’t for me. It’s for all them. It’s for the thousands of people at the club level. It’s for the players.”

Bettman also credited his owners for supporting the league through two lockouts. He added, “I’ve been doing this for over two decades, and this type of recognition for all the people I mentioned is long overdue. We think our best days are ahead.”

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