In his Third Lockout, Bettman Maneuvers with Owners’ Backing

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(from Sports Business Journal October 31, 2012) In 1999, Gary Bettman, Commissioner of the NHL, called his good friend Doug Logan, who had just been relieved of his duties as commissioner of the MLS. He lightened the mood for Logan, saying that “Doug, we both know that as a commissioner, at any given moment, you can have eight or nine owners at your throat,” Bettman told Logan, “your problem was, your league only has nine owners.”

In the past two years NBA commissioner, David Stern, and NFL commissioner, Roger Goodell, have both gone through lockouts. Gary Bettman is going through his third since taking over in 1993. The passing of the deadline to get a new CBA in time for a full season came and went without a new deal in place, which added to the anger of fans and players toward Bettman.

Many players have voiced their opinion on how they feel about Bettman. Buffalo goaltender, Ryan Miller, said “Gary has basically run this business for 20 years, so if he’s operated at a loss for how many of those years, how is he still in a position of leadership, or even have a job?” Other players and agents have voiced their opinion towards Bettman as well. The only problem is that Bettman answers to 30 owners instead of the 9 Logan had. “Gary’s in this for the long term,” said Harvey Schiller, the former president of the Atlanta Thrashers. The owners are not allowed to publicly talk about the lockout, or they will be fined.

Many people are wondering how Gary Bettman could come back if the NHL loses another season, the second in 8 years. No other professional sport has had an entire season canceled. He could keep his job though as long as the owners are on board with him. They recently gave Bettman a new 5 year deal that payed him close to 8 million in 2011. When Bettman was hired in 1993, he negotiated his contract, and in his contract it says he needs no less than three-quarters of the owners. They also only need 8 out of 30 owners to reject a new CBA. Bettman does have a good resume in the NHL, where he has added franchises in the south and he also developed the Winter Classic. Jeremy Jacobs, Owner of the Boston Bruins, says, “Gary has the support of all 30 clubs. We all believe in his direction.” Players rarely like the commissioner of their sport, but with 3 lockouts in 20 years, Bettman does not have much to work with.