Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
Friday, February 01, 2021

no buts
Today marks the 15th anniversary of Gary Bettman’s tenure as National Hockey League commissioner.

Let me take this opportunity to isolate a prime example of the idiotic knee-jerk thinking that dominates such sports-journalism retrospectives:

Revenues and franchise values have also markedly grown, BUT so have player salaries. (emphasis mine)

“But”? That simple qualifier speaks volumes. It’s not “and so have player salaries”, which would cast the increase as a supporting effect of the league’s strength. Instead, it’s the accusatory “but”, implying that well-paid talent is a negative thing. Despite commonly-accepted perceptions, it’s wrongheaded thinking. Fact is, when both sides are making more money, that means the business is in great shape.

With that out of the way…

It’s been a 15-year wild ride: Expansion, relocations, and arena deals have changed the league’s landscape, while lockouts and disciplinary actions have contributed to uneasy labor relations. Plenty of assessments will be offered over the next few days, most of them negative — no surprise, as the chief steward of any sport is a naturally disproportionate target. Personally, I rate Bettman’s reign as neutral-to-slightly-positive. I’m fully supportive of the efforts to widen the scope of the game, and that wasn’t going to happen by keeping the 1993 status quo: Preventing weak-sister franchises from relocating and avoiding a presence in the fast-growing U.S. southeast and west regions. Counterbalancing that is his culpability for the lockout season and shoddy player treatment overall, even though that’s a function of his following orders from the owners (like every other sports commish does). And of course, marketing efforts — including the dearth of big-money national TV exposure — have been mostly as inept as they were pre-Bettman, when the NHL had presidents instead of commissioners.

All that’s fairly apparent, at least to me. I’m not your average fan, of course — I’m more astute, frankly. And I watch NHL games practically every night, to the exclusion of most other television offerings; so by that measure, I give the current state of the league a thumbs-up.

Bettman himself has a few more years left on his gig. As long as the revenues keep streaming under his watch, the owners will keep him around. On balance, that’s a positive thing.

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 02/01/2021 08:24:59 AM
Category: Hockey, SportsBiz
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