Gary Bettman's actions of late have been downright bizarre. Let's review:
He has all but publicly committed a franchise to the city of Kansas City. Why? Even Bettman can not truly believe putting a franchise in another non-hockey market is the answer to the NHL's economic problems. No, it has more to do with the Anschutz Entertainment Group, who also happen to own the arena in KC. Oh, and they own the Los Angeles Kings. How does that happen?
It gets better. Anschutz also has plans to build an arena just off the Las Vegas strip. And we all know Vegas is another largely rumoured NHL destination for either expansion or franchise relocation.
But in the meantime the arena in Kansas City sits empty. Bettman must have some sort of a deadline to get a team in KC one way or another. He rubber stamped Boots Del Biaggio, an Anschutz lackey, as the new owner of Nashville Predators, with the possible intent of moving the franchise to KC. Not long later we find out Boots was a fraud and will soon be in jail. The non-existent background checking was so flimsy that any normal boss would be fired. Unless of course it was all just pushed through.
Are there not bylaws preventing one NHL owner having his fingers in another franchise's pie?
Even weirder, Bettman denied the a $238 million offer from Blackberry billionaire Jim Balsillie, about the only man who really wants to buy a NHL team. But the NHL denied the sale, and giving it Anschutz's choice for a reported $40-50 million dollars less.
Can you imagine how pissed off all the other NHL owners must have been? Balsillie's offer would have seen franchise equity skyrocket. Franchise equity is where NHL owners make their money. In these tough economic times Balsillie must have looked like a god-send, except maybe to the Anschutz group.
Now we have the Phoenix Coyotes said to be bleeding as much as $35 million a season. Even worse, they are unable to meet various targets to qualify for better revenue sharing. Now the NHL's other teams are said to be advancing significant sums of money to the Coyotes to keep them afloat, as their owner's trucking outfit is in serious financial trouble.
Somehow I suspect Bettman is feverishly trying to figure out how to get the Coyotes to one of Anshutz's rinks, most likely KC, especially since Plan A, Nashville, is not working out.
How much of this mess is the result of Anschutz group pulling the strings will likely never truly be known. But do not kid yourself - the Anschutz group is the most powerful group in hockey today.
Need more proof? Do you wonder why the NHL has so embraced regular season games in Europe? Oh sure, building the game, a thank you to European fans, blah blah blah is all fine and true. But did you know the Anschutz Group owns arenas world wide? Or that games played in London were played in an Anschutz owned arena? Or that games played in Prague and Stockholm were played in arenas which Anschutz sponsors?
Mr. Bettman is employed to look out for the best interests of all 30 NHL franchises, and therefore the best interests of hockey everywhere. Somehow I think the Anschutz group is benefitting here more than anyone.