Bettman Praised Ahead Of "Fascinating" Stanley Cup Final
Once "perhaps an unlikely leader for a game with its roots north of the border," NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman has "become one of the most powerful and long-lasting influences in professional sports," according to Stephen Whyno of the AP. Bettman in his 25 years at the helm has overseen the growth of the NHL from $437M in annual revenue to nearly $5B, while also "guiding the league into and out of work stoppages and expanding hockey's reach to places that never seemed a fit for the fastest game on ice." Bettman "still feels energized by the thrill of work," as evidenced by his "guiding hand in the expansion process that yielded the Golden Knights and led to the most successful inaugural season in league history." Bruins Owner and NHL BOG Chair Jeremy Jacobs said, "He's the best that we could do. I mean, there are things that might irritate you from time to time about him. But you know where his heart and soul is, he's always interested in the game, the improvement of the game." Whyno writes Bettman is "confident in his decisions and willing to accept the ramifications to his reputation and legacy." But he has "earned respect -- sometimes begrudged -- and made some enemies while serving longer than the other three major sports commissioners combined." Bettman is paid more than $9M annually, and with that salary, he is "willing to take the brunt of responsibility for the NHL's good, bad and ugly." While he "doesn't have too many fans" at the NHLPA, owners "line up behind him based on his work in raising franchise values, negotiating U.S. and Canadian TV deals and steering the sport through trouble" (AP, 5/25).
CAN'T MISS THIS CUP: THE HOCKEY NEWS' Ken Campbell wrote this year's Capitals-Golden Knights Stanley Cup Final is "rife with incredible storylines and intriguing possibilities." Campbell: "You have one franchise that is driven by one of the most dynamic superstars of his generation that has chronically underacheived and looking for its first-ever Stanley Cup title. And on the other side, you have one of the most unlikely tales in sports history." Both organizations are "chock full of very good people, consummate professionals and players for whom it's easy to root" (THEHOCKEYNEWS.com, 5/24). In Miami, Greg Cote writes this "astonishing" Capitals-Golden Knights matchup "represents well the love of underdog and stubborn hope that drives us as fans." The Golden Knights, the "ultimate Cinderella-on-skates, would be the first-ever first-year expansion team to win a championship" in one of the Big Four leagues. Meanwhile, the Caps aim to "win the first Stanley Cup" in their 43-year existence. It is the matchup "perfectly conveying the delightfully unscripted, anything-is-possible magic of sports" (MIAMI HERALD, 5/25). CBSSN's Adam Schein said, "It’s a dream matchup with the NHL. Everyone loves the Vegas story, and I think it's the most remarkable run in the history of team sports. ... Marc-Andre Fleury and what he has done in the past against [Alex] Ovechkin and the Capitals, that's the storyline from when he was in Pittsburgh." He added, "The postseason has been terrific" (“Time to Schein,” CBSSN, 5/24). In Toronto, Bruce Arthur wrote this is "probably the most fascinating Cup final in memory." The Stanley Cup is either "going to a casino or the Kremlin" (TORONTO STAR, 5/24).