Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Bettman's 14 years and counting

Yahoo's Dan Wetzel gets his dander up on the upcoming anniversary of Gary Bettman's installation as commissioner of the NHL.

This is Bettman's NHL. Fourteen years, four bankruptcies, three franchise moves, two lockouts, one lost season and no effective leadership.
This is one of the milder quotes from Wetzel, as he picks apart Bettman's NHL.

It's hard to disagree with his point on the whole, but some of the arguments Wetzel makes are just nonsense.

Teams play eight games per season against division foes, or 32 a year against just four teams.

Bettman claimed it would spawn "new" rivalries. Of course, old rivalries such as Detroit-Toronto – two hockey-mad towns separated by a single highway that actually has an exit for Wayne Gretzky Blvd. – no longer play a home-and-home series each season. It's like killing Red Sox-Yankees so Blue Jays-Diamondbacks might catch on.
First, because they play in opposite conferences, Detroit and Toronto would play only two games against each other under the old, balanced schedule. The Red Sox and Yankees -- playing in the same division within MLB's unbalanced schedule -- face each other 19 times each season. Not quite the same, is it?

Second, the reason Detroit and Toronto had a rivalry is because they've been playing each other for almost 80 years. And while I agree that eight regular season games does not a rivalry make, I don't think this is a downfall on the NHL. Familiarity breeds contempt, after all.

Still, true rivalries are only born in one place -- the playoffs. If you meet the same team in the playoffs over and over again, a natural hatred ensues simply because the playoffs are it -- lose and you're done.

When the same team ends your season year after year, well, just ask Dallas and Edmonton what they think of each other. These two teams have absolutely nothing in common, except for the fact that they met in the playoffs every year from 1997 until 2001 and again in 2003 -- and there's certainly no love lost between them.

Love him or hate him, and there's probably many more of the latter, Bettman is here for a while. Fans either need to get on board with him or get out of the way.

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