Gary Bettman is brilliant. He might be the smartest man alive. He would kick Einstein's ass.
He has commanded a sinking ship, a dead league walking, steadily navigating the once relevant NHL clearly behind other such grand and historic sports as poker and ultimate fighting.
|Gary Bettman's lack of leadership is one reason for the NHL's steady decline. (Getty Images)|
Through the first 32 games of this past regular season, according to media reports, the NHL averaged a 0.2 rating. That's a big, fat zero in front of that decimal point. You could put squirrels boffing on the television and more people would watch.
Brilliant, brilliant captaining by Bettman. The great leadership examples continue. There was a devastating strike that led to the NHL becoming the first major professional sports league in North America to cancel an entire season due to labor strife. The sport has never fully recovered. It might never fully recover.
Did anyone even notice hockey was gone?
There is more with Teflon Gary. While Bettman and his league have taken some steps to slow hockey's ancient and barbaric mindset when it comes to fighting, not nearly enough has been done.
No casual fan wants to see blatant hooliganism, but hockey's old guard still rules with an iron stick. They ignore how if fighting was so attractive to the casual viewer -- the most important of consumers -- hockey would not have slid to its current disastrous positioning behind the NFL, NBA, MLB, NASCAR, college football, college basketball, college baseball, cheerleading competitions, the dart throwing Olympics, Saturday Night Bowling and YouTube video of my best friend's bar mitzvah.
Then again, why wouldn't anyone want to see players crack open each other's skulls and leaving bloody bits of brain matter on the ice? What a lovely display of athleticism that is. Who doesn't want to see hockey sticks upside the head and cheap shots from behind?
Thugs on ice, that's what hockey players are sometimes.
All of these things are why Bettman is a true man of genius. This mess, this disaster called the NHL, has swirled around Bettman for years, yet he mostly remains unscathed.
Brilliant. How does he do that?
He is the greatest survivor maybe in sports history. He would have survived the Titanic and Disco Demolition Night. Bettman must be composed of some sort of impenetrable alloy because he is standing, defiant, giving the middle finger to his few vocal critics, fiddling as hockey burns. Teflon Gary.