Anyone who doesn't think hockey can work in America is forgetting this era [early 90s]. All of a sudden, hockey was challenging, if not beating, the NBA in a number of major U.S. markets – including New York. It's almost impossible to imagine now, but it happened.
As the conspiracy theory goes, Stern sensed the potential trouble in 1993 while the NHL was in search of a new commissioner. So he looked around his own office for someone so incompetent that if they got the job, the NHL would be marginalized by their mismanagement and never again be a threat to the NBA.
Naturally, Stern recommended one of his assistants, Gary Bettman, for the job.
There has never been a commissioner of a major North American sports league this inept...
Bettman is on a 14-year run of bad ideas. His latest was a classic, moving the league's all-star game, which featured attention-grabbing young megastars, to midweek on the Versus Network – as opposed to NBC on a weekend.
The result was a catastrophic 0.7 rating. That's a meager 474,298 households in the States that bothered to watch, down 76 percent from the last all-star game.
He has shown no respect for the game, for its history, for its fans, for its unique qualities.
The league is now overexpanded and overpriced, misplaced and misdirected. It is less exciting, less interesting, less traditional and more difficult to follow for the non-obsessive fan.
And, since fighting has been curbed, the "new" rivalries haven't really taken because a hockey rivalry without fighting is like non-alcoholic beer.
This is Bettman's NHL. Fourteen years, four bankruptcies, three franchise moves, two lockouts, one lost season and no effective leadership.
Brilliant article. Keep em coming folks....