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Cherry or Gretzky


New Commissioner  

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In lieu of the coming lockout, it has become clear that Gary Bettman has become the most incompetent commissioner of any professional sporting league. In the overall picture, he has been a failure on many levels.

In 1993, he had been hired with the following mandate: selling the game in the U.S. market, end labor unrest, complete expansion plans, and modernize the views of the "old-guard" within the ownership ranks. Well, he has gone and done so, but the results were a complete bust.

The U.S. hasn't bought - NHL still places a distant fourth in revenue among the four major professional leagues. Last year, American teams have a net loss of $47.9 million in total. Only six American franchises have posted net profits, and even then, four of them have single-digit profit margins, and owe much of it to Canadian viewership on the road.

Canadian teams, by contrast, have netted $169 million in profits.

The expansion plan has only hurt the league. For one, he's expanded into busted markets in the Sun Belt, one of the key reasons for the profit losses. Two, expansion has watered down the talent of the NHL. The league has to accept lesser talent to fill the large number of roster spots, and hence, the better players don't have people to fully ascenuate them. And meanwhile, teams like Columbus, Phoenix, and until recently Florida, well they are left to languish at the bottom of the league, taking up only space.

But the motherload of all his problems: the labour dispute. Never before had any professional league been shut down three times, and conincidentally, this has happened over a span of 19 years, under one commissioner. Bettman has shown himself to be a terrible negotiator who cannot get a deal resolved with the NHLPA, nor does he even care to save the game.

After this third lockout, I say the camel's back has been broken. Bettman's time is over, and I have two candidates in mind to replace him.

Don Cherry is an ideal candidate. He's practical and down to earth, and he understands the true nature of the game of hockey. More importantly, he cares about the game more than any other fan and he won't try and change the game with ridiculous rules that take the fun out of it.

To back it all up, he's a very strong personality who will deal with the guff with players and owners alike. He'll tell both sides to get things in order, and when one side steps out of line, he will take action, but that won't include shutting down an entire season.

Cherry man not be a salesman or finance guy like Bettman, but sometimes, having money people in the job doesn't work. Was Microsoft better under Ballmer than it was under Gates? I didn't think so. But Cherry does understand enough about profits to know why the league is floundering, and he will take action to curb it.

Only drawback is Cherry's rough, polarizing persona, not receptive in America. Nonetheless, a commissioner needs to get tough so that's forgivable.

The other candidate is Wayne Gretzky. A very different personality from Cherry, Gretzky still nonetheless cares more about hockey than any hockey fan or player, and understands the game better than anyone in history. He too is practical and down to earth.

What he lacks in assertiveness (at least compared to Cherry), he makes up for in universal respect from the entire hockey world. But Gretzky too can be assertive when it's called for, and combined with this respect, he can negotiate with players and owners to keep the show rolling.

He hasn't been able to sell the sport to Phoenix as a coach, but he at least has a very attractive and respectable image, and unlike Cherry, he at least has some business experience. And he knows how to work the little things, like what will work and what won't (like hockey in Phoenix). I'm sure he can also do better than Bettman with securing the contract.

So yeah, here are my two top choices. What will it be, Commissioner's Corner on HNIC? Or Number 99? Or how about someone else, like Ron McLean?

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