Raise your hand if you watched, loved and got completely wrapped up in the Olympic Men’s Hockey tournament these last two weeks. Now put your hands down. Now look at your man. Now look at me. I’m Riding a horse. Now raise your hand if you are watching the Bruins – Canadiens game right now. See the difference? The game is not the same, and it almost hurts.
I have come to realize that Gary Bettman, who is purportedly the commissioner of the NHL, is actually still working for his old bosses at the NBA. Bettman was third in command of the NBA and worked there from 1981 until he joined the NHL in 1993. Or so they tell us. By my count, in the past five years (ever since the lockout that he endorsed)every single decision he has made has caused the NBA to grow and the NHL to be forgotten.
I’ve been chronicling this for a while, but in the wake of the tremendousness that was the Olympic Hockey tournament, it deserves repeating. Coming out of the worst year that a league can possibly have (also known as a cancelled one), and with no TV deal in place, Bettman took the cash. He made the decision that his league didn’t need the tremendous exposure that being on ESPN would give him, and instead took a slightly more lucrative deal with Comcast to air the games on what was then called the Outdoor Life Network. First problem; the games (except for the Winter Classic) are not played outside. Then there is the fact that Versus, as it is now called, is a backwater channel that most people couldn’t distinguish from the Style channel (how do I know there is a Style channel? Ask my fiancee and her DVR full of episodes of “Whose Wedding is it Anyways?”). This way, instead of being on a channel that has the most watched sports news show, and that most guys flip to instinctively, it’s hidden like the fake gold in the Cave of the Winds.
Also with that move they lose the coverage that ESPN provides on SportsCenter, and their niche show (be it NHL2Nite or whatever), which draws viewers to both the sport and the network’s coverage of it. I don’t even know id there is a SportsCenter on Versus, or if it’s only hunting and fishing shows between the games (and the Tour de France, but that’s only for three weeks in the summer, and french).
But this week, just when the entire world (and more importantly, the entire U.S.) was zeroed in on watching Hockey, Bettmen fired his biggest salvo. He said, on TV, that he wasn’t sure if NHL players are going to be in the 2014 Sochi, Russia Olympics. Is he retarded? This was the best thing that could have happened to the NHL, and he is threatening to not let it happen again. His sport is dying and he want’s to take away it’s biggest and best showcase. Hell, this was such a great event for hockey that Ryan Miller of the Buffalo Sabres got a standing ovation tonight, when he was on the bench for a night off, in Pittsburgh!
It’s time to give Bettman the axe, make Gretzky the commissioner (he’s not the good one, He’s the Great One), and start this whole f#$%ing thing over. Move the games back to ESPN, take the smaller money and bigger coverage and build on this Olympic momentum. Do things like 1998 when the All-Star Game was North America Vs. The World, and whatever else the NHL can think of to expand upon the opportunity that they have been given, not to kill it.
Go Sox, Go America.