Ahhhh, yes expansion. Bettman awarded franchises in noted hockey hotbeds like Nashville, Florida, Columbus, and Atlanta and relocated teams to Carolina, Colorado and Phoenix all with the idea that blanketing America with NHL teams would directly translate into a lucrative network contract from one of ABC, CBS, Fox or NBC. I'm no accountant, but I don't think the current arrangement with NBC (no upfront rights fee and a split of ad revenue) would qualify as 'lucrative'.
If the picture I just painted wasn't scary enough for hockey fans, let's not forget the horrific scene that played out with so many of the third jerseys during Bettman's watch. Click here, here or here...but keep the lights on.
Throughout this period of time, there has been one constant in hockey: Bettman. The dimunitive former NBA lawyer who never met a person he couldn't irritate (or a fan he couldn't alienate) has had his cold, sweaty hands around the neck of our game for seventeen years.
He has stolen teams from two Canadian cities while going back to two American cities where hockey had already failed, and now refuses to allow the mess that is the Phoenix Coyotes to head north. If Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin don't come along, you could argue that hockey would be a total afterthought in the
Bettman's two most notable contributions to the game have been instituting a salary-cap and continuosly making Ron Maclean uncomfortable. Nothing else positive stands out.
It used to be that the NFL, MLB, NBA and NHL combined to create the 'big four' of professional sports. Unfortunately, those days are well behind us and even if Bettman isn't the primary reason for it, well, change is supposed to be a good thing, isn't it?
The NHL needs some new blood at the very top, someone who knows how to market the game, someone who can relate to the blue collar fan that Bettman and his owners have all but forgotten. The business of hockey needs a new face.
And it just so happens that I know the perfect candidate to replace him: Vince Shlomi.
Or as most people know him, The Slap Chop guy. Or the ShamWow guy. All we've been hearing for years is that the league needs to sell itself to Americans, so who better to get the job done than the guy that made millions and coined catchphrases off of two regular, unspectacular products?
Vince could step in and whip the American population into a frenzy, he could create excitement and buzz and even if he doesn't know a thing about hockey, well, how would that be any different than the current situation?
I can see it now: Linguine, Martini, Zack Stortini.