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Bettman's leadership hurts NHL

Commentary

April 21, 2013
By Brittany Ayers (sports@altoonamirror.com) , The Altoona Mirror

The Pittsburgh Penguins took the idea of "you win some, you lose some" to heart in the beginning of their condensed season, sporting an on-again, off-again playing style and a so-so record.

After a two-game sweep in Florida, the Penguins played with a new-found passion. Though they began to flounder once more after their 15-game winning streak, the team rose to the occasion, recently clinching the Atlantic Division title.

Fans might rejoice for the stellar season, but they need to remember the unsteady foundation the Penguins are built on.

If the playoffs are cut short by inconsistency, NHL enthusiasts should not blame the players for their undeniable talent, but look to the administration and more importantly, Gary Bettman, for their erratic behavior.

According to the NHL Constitution, Article VI, section 6.1, "The Commissioner shall serve as the Chief Executive Officer of the League and is charged with protecting the integrity of the game of professional hockey and preserving public confidence in the League."

In the past 19 years, Bettman presided over three lockouts, resulting in two shortened seasons and one canceled season. The commissioner's job is not to play alongside the Penguins but to protect and preserve the game of hockey.

In a league struggling to gain popularity, dismissing fans and pivotal exposure is the last thing any commissioner should do. During his 2004-05 lockout, Bettman lost the contract with ESPN, which cost the league much-needed publicity.

ESPN was forced to push back its scheduled programming, so it dumped the NHL contract and searched elsewhere to fill the void.

In his second lockout, Bettman gave up the largest form of exposure available in the United States.

Now, in the 2012-13 season, games are televised on regional Fox Sports channels, Root Sports and Center Ice only, severely limiting those who can watch the game or even know they exist.

Bettman's lockouts not only cost the league expansive amounts of money and fans, but could cost the league its most popular players. All-stars such as Patrick Kane, Rick Nash and the Pens' own Evgeni Malkin signed with other hockey leagues shortly after the lockout.

Though the continued play kept them in optimal shape, two big realizations arose from their time outside of the NHL.

Players may find a more stable league outside the NHL after Bettman's numerous lockouts, and after traveling to other leagues, such as the KHL in Russia, players are at more risk to injure themselves, further damaging the NHL's already wounded reputation.

Bettman squandered almost three whole seasons of play, television rights to one of the largest network in the nation, millions of dollars and hundreds of fans.

In the wake of his erratic, unprofessional behavior is a hockey team that fights to maintain a stable season and continue on into the playoffs.

After the Penguins clinched the Atlantic Division, fans can only wonder if they will continue to play their strongest, or if an averge team will beat them.

If the Penguins begin to stumble, they will be following a model created by Gary Bettman.

Brittany Ayers is a Penn State Altoona student.

 
 
 

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