Yes, I’m somewhat of a hockey fan. I grew up in southern New Jersey and despite my geographic location, I cheered for the Devils (who are traditionally associated with the northern half of the state)– unless they are out in which case I’ll cheer for the Flyers. And if there were six million clones of me in the United States, Gary Bettman would be a happy man.
It’s no secret that the vast majority of people think that NHL commissioner Gary Bettman would appear to strongly dislike Canada. Just look at everything that has happened since he took over the league back in 1993 (the last time a Canadian team won the Cup, by the way.)
Look at the shit-eating grin he has as he presents the Stanley Cup to the Rangers in 1994 after they defeated the Canucks. That smile says it all. It says “I hate Canada and I’m glad they lost.” — or something like that.
Bettman has tried to Americanize the sport of Hockey for years. Glow in the Dark pucks, North America vs The World All Star Game formats, expansion teams into cities that have never even seen snow. And then there’s that interview last year with CBC’s Ron MacLean where Bettman seems to get his back up all over Canada and even goes as far to say that American money is “real money.”
And while we’re talking about crappy All Star Game formats, you just know that Bettman wanted USA vs The World as a format, but someone must have warned them that USA would have had their asses handed to them by The World. I’m American and even I know that.
Why does he try so hard? He wants his league to be as widespread and mainstream as all the other big leagues are. But when poker, tennis and bowling draw bigger ratings in some parts of the US than hockey does, it’s time to focus on where it matters instead of forcing it down the throats of people who don’t care.
Think about this: 72,000 people filled a stadium in Arizona to watch WrestleMania XXVI. The Phoenix Coyotes can’t even sell out a game during the regular season. Maybe that should be a wake-up call for him to just let the team go and stop blocking the sale like he did last year.
The bottom line is — and this might be hard for Bettman to stomach — some people in the States don’t give a crap about hockey. And that’s it.
So now Canada has a seventh NHL team in Winnipeg and everyone is happy. Well, maybe not the 137 people in Atlanta who cared about hockey. But that city had TWO tries at hosting an NHL franchise and it failed. The people of Hot-Lanta don’t care and their lives will surely continue without the Thrashers — who by the way had the second worst logo after the Hurricanes in the whole league.
But leave it to Gary Bettman to rain on the parade and warn people in Winnipeg that if the team, city and owners don’t ask “how high?” when he yells “jump”, there’s going to be problems. You get the feeling that the only better than denying Canada another NHL team would be for him to be able to turn around and say “see? told ya so!” if the New Jets fail in Winnipeg.