Gary Bettman sure likes playing the role of tiny mafioso, doesn’t he? He’s become the NHL equiviilant of the father of the bride at a mob wedding – the guy you go to so you can ask that one favor. “Hi, can we get an NHL team?” “Sure. You get Phoenix, or Atlanta if Glendale steps up.” “Thanks, Godfather Gary!”
“Hi, Godfather Gary. May you grant us our request to be re-aligned to the Eastern Conference next year? We’ll pay you in pizza and increased revenue for the league.” “Hmm… I suppose. You crushing Eastern Conference teams with your physical style of play will make you the dominant team in the East, and an easier travel schedule’ll keep Niklas Lidstrom’s sleep schedule regular. I want extra Crazy Bread though, ok?”
I think pretty much everyone in the world has thrown their hat into the “Columbus needs to move before Detroit” pool. Closer geographically to the teams in the conference, a style of play that’s more similar, and a franchise that really would like to get fans to tune into games on TV, the Blue Jackets need to be the team that goes East. The Red Wings sell out regardless of who they play and where they play – the Blue Jackets don’t. Detroit’s been in the Western Conference since time began – they’re used to the travel. Their fans are used to crappy 10:30 start times for West Coast trips. The Blue Jackets, who are trying to grow their fanbase and get money in the coiffers to make sure that their team stays in Columbus, needs to move to ensure their future.
But, much like Bettman’s deal with Mark Chipman for a team, if someone does the league right and plays by the rules, that supercedes the fans and teams in small nontraditional markets, and all that pesky “extra effort” that some common sense moves would take. Why try to have multiple lucrative and successful markets when you can piggyback on the sure fire Original Six teams? Why try to help teams to get fans in their own cities when you can just have bandwagon fans buy merchandise instead? Heck, to see “their team,” the bandwagon fans have to buy Center Ice, too, so kaching there.
I’ve disliked Gary Bettman since 1993. I don’t question his business sense one bit, but I do question his scruples. You know, like how everyone feels about most mobsters. He might not own a waste management business, but by God is he good at granting favors. Just watch out, Gary. One day, when you go out to get the paper, it’s all going to hit you like a ton of bricks.