Gary Bettman Gets His Gold Watch Early

Like him or not, he does his job well.



National Hockey League Commissioner Gary Bettman is a Hall of Fame member now. It is pretty routine for sports hall of fames to put long serving commissioner into their shrines, it just seems a little unusual that the still active Bettman has been given an honor that is usually reserved for retired commissioners. The Hall of Fame voters usually give out a spot in the Hall in lieu of a gold watch for long term service. Of course there are detractors who cannot believe that Bettman is getting the honor. Former players who are incensed that Bettman will not acknowledge that repeated blows to the head incurred during a game or practice can lead to brain damage. Then there are those in Canada who have been upset that a New York lawyer with no hockey links became the commissioner in the first place. There are others who don’t like the NHL expansion plan to non-traditional hockey cities. Here is a news flash, the NHL decided after the United States Tax Code Revision in 1986 to expand, when Bettman took the job in 1993, there were five new teams although Bettman was in the league when the owners allowed Quebec City to be sold to Denver interests and Winnipeg’s owners sold to Phoenix interests and Peter Karmanos moved his Hartford Whalers to North Carolina.

Bettman gave his bosses advice and helped grow the league’s revenues. He is a lobbyist who found pushed for new buildings and new owners for bankrupt teams in Arizona, Buffalo and Ottawa. He worked to save the Edmonton franchise from moving to Houston. He has been the owners’ negotiator at the collective bargaining table and there have been three lockouts under his watch. But his bosses, the NHL’s 31 owners like him and don’t care what fans or sports media people think. Bettman has professionalized the business. He did his job.