GARY B. BETTMAN
Commissioner, National Hockey League
Gary Bettman has served the National Hockey League as Commissioner since February 1, 1993 and has guided the world’s top professional hockey league through more than two decades of growth and advancement on and off the ice. Record revenues, record attendance and numerous fan-friendly and community-minded initiatives are just a few examples of the ways Commissioner Bettman has brought the NHL to a broader audience, through more media platforms, than any time in League history. In recognition of his many contributions to the game, he was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame as a member of the Class of 2018.
By negotiating a long-term Collective Bargaining Agreement with the National Hockey League Players’ Association and long-term, multi-billion-dollar national broadcast rights agreements in the United States (NBC Sports) and Canada (Rogers Communications) plus an innovative digital rights agreement with Major League Baseball Advanced Media (MLBAM), Commissioner Bettman has fostered unprecedented economic stability for the League’s Member Clubs. League revenues have increased more than tenfold during Commissioner Bettman’s tenure and franchise values have increased exponentially.
On the ice, the NHL’s competitive balance may be unrivaled in professional sports – thanks to the strongest Collective Bargaining Agreement in sports and the implementation of rules designed to accentuate the speed, skill and creativity of the players.
A calendar of innovative signature events – including iconic outdoor games (the Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic, the Coors Light NHL Stadium Series and the Heritage Classic) – has driven fan engagement and sponsor participation to unprecedented levels. These achievements were recognized with three Sports Business Awards accorded by the Sports Business Journal and Sports Business Daily in 2014, with Commissioner Bettman being named Sports Executive of the Year; the NHL being named Sports League of the Year, and the 2014 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic – which attracted a crowd of over 105,000 to the University of Michigan’s “Big House” stadium on New Year’s Day – being named Sports Event of the Year.
Advancements in the game under Commissioner Bettman include the implementation of overtime and the ‘shootout,’ which eliminate tied games during the regular season. The League’s implementation of the two-referee system revolutionized hockey officiating around the world. Other innovations include the development and advancement of video review (since replicated by the National Football League, Major League Baseball and the National Basketball Association), emergency on-ice trauma care and elevation in the study of injuries.
In addition, Commissioner Bettman created the first Department of Player Safety in pro sports. The Department is entrusted with the continued consideration of suggesting proposed changes to rules and equipment that will make the game safer for the players. The NHL also was the first sports League to explain player supplementary discipline rulings in videos available to all through the League’s digital outlets – an advancement that has been hailed throughout the sports world.
Commissioner Bettman also has focused attention on the League’s international makeup and appeal. NHL players stocked the rosters at five consecutive Olympic Winter Games, beginning in 1998 at Nagano, Japan, and the World Cup of Hockey tournament returned to the NHL calendar in September, 2016. As a further testament to the League’s international appeal, NHL games are televised in more than 160 countries and covered on NHL.com in seven languages – Czech, Finnish, French, German, Russian, Slovak and Swedish – in addition to English.
In keeping with the Commissioner’s commitment to serving fans, the NHL Network provides viewers in the U.S. with original programming from the League’s signature events as well as “NHL Now,” a daily NHL talk/interview show; “NHL Tonight” and “NHL On The Fly,” which provide game highlights and analysis every night of the season.
Charity, community service and diversity also have been at the forefront of Commissioner Bettman’s tenure. Hockey Fights Cancer has raised millions in support of cancer research and awareness. Mr. Bettman also prioritized grass-roots initiatives that bring hockey to youngsters. These programs include “Hockey is for Everyone,” a part of the NHL Foundation, the NHL’s charitable and community relations organization and a major component of the League’s youth hockey programming. In furtherance of “Hockey Is For Everyone,” the NHL joined the Thurgood Marshall College Fund to fund a full four-year college scholarship for outstanding scholar-athletes from its inner-city hockey programs for at-risk youth.
In addition, the NHL in 2013 signed an historic partnership agreement with the “You Can Play Project” which is dedicated to ensuring equality, respect and safety for all athletes, without regard to sexual orientation. In 2014, the League received the International Role Model Award from the Equality Forum, a non-profit organization, the mission of which is to advance national and international lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender civil rights through education.
NHL Green, another of Commissioner Bettman’s initiatives, has been recognized widely for its support of environmental causes. NHL Green received the prestigious 2011 Sport for the Environment Award from the global Beyond Sport organization. The League also was celebrated for the establishment and success of the NHL Food Recovery Program, which recovers prepared but untouched food from all 30 NHL facilities, providing hundreds of thousands of meals to local shelters across North America while diverting hundreds of tons of food waste from landfill. NHL Green was named winner of the 2013 Communitas Award for Leadership in Ethical and Environmental Responsibility. NHL Green also released the 2014 NHL Environmental Sustainability Report, the first of its kind by a major professional sports League, which highlighted the numerous programs, benchmarks, and successes that have increased the League’s overall sustainability. In 2014, the Green Sports Alliance, a non-profit organization with a mission to help sports teams, venues and Leagues enhance their environmental performance, honored the NHL with its Environmental Leadership Award.
A native of Queens, NY, Mr. Bettman also served 12 years with the National Basketball Association. Prior to that, he worked in the Proskauer Rose Goetz & Mendelsohn law firm.
Commissioner Bettman graduated from Cornell University and the New York University School of Law. He and his wife, Shelli, have three children -- Lauren, Jordan, and Brittany – and five grandchildren.