First, welcome to Great Ice-pectations. I was going to designate this first entry to sort of introduce the blog and what it would be about etc., but I will save that for another time because I want to jump right in with something that is on my mind and certainly on the mind of Gary Bettman.
Everyone is familiar with the Phoenix Coyotes situation of late and the showdown between Darth Bettman and Jim Balsillie. The court found in favor of the NHL (sort of) when it rejected Balisillie's overly generous bid to buy the Coyotes. The grounds for the rejection were summed up as "insufficient time to meet the parameters of the contract". Basically the contract stipulated the team be forked over to Balsillie before free agency starts so that the new ownership would have control over free-agency. Unfotunately for Balsillie, he's more likely to be participating in a fantasy draft before an actual one.
So we know Jim's side of it. He wants a team. He wants the Coyotes. He wants them in Hamilton and nowhere else. It's pretty cut and dry.
But what about Bettman? What does he want? Why fight so hard for a team that has lost around $36 million in each of the last 3 season? For a team that is so far away from it's home city that fans don't want to go to games? For a team that hasn't seen the post season since early this decade? For a team that is sucking revenue shares from the rest of the attendance-getting league?
Here are my guesses:
1) Bettman is the boss. He wants things his way as much as Balsillie wants things his. I can't blame the guy, he is the NHL commissioner and he should have a certain say in what goes on. If I were him I wouldn't want some guy coming in and taking a team from under my nose. It looks bad on him. He has no time to prepare for it, marketing wise, organization wise (is Hamilton a Western Conference team?), or financially. It's a control issue.
2) Publicity. Not just Bettman's publicity, because we all know how popular he is, but publicity for the league. After all, how does it look to have a team helmed by the The Great One fail so miserably? Not great.
3) Tradition. Hockey, more than any other sport I would argue, has a strong sense of tradition. That's why there is a debate about fighting every year and nothing happens. That's why Original 6 teams will always pick on my poor Hurricanes. People like things the way they are or the way they were. Especially hockey people. Bettman doesn't want change. He want's to prove the Coyotes can make it in Phoenix, even though they are looking a bit like Boromir in the Lord of the Rings right now, three arrows in his chest, swinging his sword wildly. And although it is commendable and bold, Boromir ends up dead.
Should Bettman so blindly defend Phoenix's endangered species? Yes, he should defend them, maybe not blindly. He needs to look at the bigger picture and not get distracted into a rivalry with a man who is incredibly intent on becoming an NHL owner.