There is a seldom used clause that commissioners in sports use from time to time when they need to remind everyone who is in charge. “In the best interest of the game” is how it goes. Normally, it involves something that has been deemed heinous or unbecoming where the commissioner steps in and puts the brakes on and either fires, suspends or dissociates themselves from an individual or issue. While it is not used very often, I think now is a time it should be used.
Gary Bettman is the Commissioner of the National Hockey League. If you still keep up with the sport, you already know that they are in the third lockout of owner-to-player during his tenure as head man. No one seems to know how long this will last even when talking with those who think they know something when having a grin on their face saying it could be a while. At some point though they will get a deal done. While it may be too late to save what image is left, they will have a deal. At that point, the forth-coming statement should be read by the Commissioner:
‘I am happy to announce that there has been an agreement reached between the National Hockey League and its players. We feel that this agreement will take our league into a more secure financial future that gives us great hope in growing our sport in every market where our fans will continue to see the greatest player in the best league in the world for years to come. With that said, in the best interest of the National Hockey League, effective immediately, I am resigning my position as Commissioner. Thank you and good bye.’
Yeah, I know that may be too good to be true, but when is it going to stop? Every major team sport has held some sort of job action over the last twenty years, but only the NHL has been able to do it three times on the watch of the same commissioner. Gary Bettman was the best thing that ever happened to the NBA the day he left to go to the NHL. While the revenues have grown since his arrival, the question is at what cost? We have seen ownership change hands with nearly half the teams in the last seven years and yet the owners have yet to have cost certainty. Yes, Bettman can break a union, but what else can he lay claim to that has been positive for the league? Its players, and yes, the fans?
As for the players, they also need a dose of reality. The NHL has to learn that when it comes to revenue they are not MLB, NBA, NFL or NASCAR. The television money is not there, and will not be there for the foreseeable future, hence a more fair split of the revenue would be at hand here. Instead, you have the grandstanding by the players at the press conferences just long enough for many of its ‘rank and file’ to leave right after to go play in some other part of the world. There is solidarity if I ever saw it, and please spare me on playing the “family card”. These players make a lot of money and to insult the fans by saying they have to go elsewhere to make a living to feed their family lets you know how clueless, if not selfish, they can be.
Make no mistake, a change is needed at the top of this league in the worst way. The mindset of partnership is the philosophy that should be taken. Instead, we have battle lines drawn once more. I think it’s time to invoke “In the best interest of the game” while there is still a game to care about as well as be played.
Mike Claiborne can be heard on “The Sports Hub” weeknights from 9p-12a on KMOX & KMOX.com