It seems that, after 25 years on the job, Gary Bettman is finally getting some love from the media.
There are multiple articles out in the past few days lauding the NHL commissioner. And rightfully so. He has done an absolutely masterful job.
He has taken the business to once unfathomable heights. The owners are very, very happy. A 400 million dollar business to a 4.5 billion dollar business coupled with franchise values that are significantly higher - very happy. The players have benefited from that as much as anyone. For the most part, aside from the necessary evil known as escrow, they should be pleased, too. They've gone from average salary around 300,000 to over $3 million.
Of course, fans hate him. That's bound to happen with three lockouts, one lost season and all the ticket price increases. That and the withdrawal from Olympics - which makes the timing of these articles a little more ironic - villified him here in Canada in particular.
These articles will give you a new respect for Gary Bettman. A respect he deserves from even his biggest detractors.
Here's a couple of articles I found particularly good.
Today's NHL Almost Unrecognizable To The One Bettman Inherited - Sportsnet
Bettman's Big Bet: Why The 2004-05 Lockout Actually Benefited NHL - ESPN
There is already talk of another lockout as early as 2019, when the current CBA could be reopened. Bettman will never allow the season to start and give the players union the hammer with striking power during the season. There will almost certainly be another lockout IF there is no negotiated deal before the season.
Hopefully a negotiated contract is the outcome, but I just don't know how likely that is. International agendas and escrow are the only things I see worth fighting over. What has me really concerned is the balance of power among NHL owners is shifting.
Jeremy Jacobs of Boston has long been known as a) the NHL's most powerful owner and b) interested in what's best for his bottom line. When NHL fans are booing Gary Bettman they really should be booing Jacobs.
Furthermore, longtime NHL owners who truly cared about the league - fellows like Harley Hotchkiss of Calgary, Ed Snider of Philadelphia and Mike Illitch of Detroit - have passed on. Their voice of reason will not be around next time. Aside from the fans Bettman is actually the last man who wants another lockout - another stain on his legacy.
Gary Bettman has done a fantastic job of managing the owners - most of which do not care about Canada or fans nearly enough. Bettman does care about these more than you give him credit for. But ultimately he does the owners bidding. So you can expect another lockout soon.