A Moment of Perfect Media Clarity

On Frozen Blog - Newspaper - 30 January, 2007Rare are the instances of bold and frank and accurate autopsies performed by media in this country, which makes Yahoo’s Dan Wetzel’s “Unhappy Anniversary” from yesterday so welcome. Fair to say, we think, that it was received in the NHL’s New York offices as coolly as the temps outside. No manner of further buildup necessary; it’s best read while in hospital surgical scrubs to protect your new Christmas sweater.

“Bettman is set to begin his 15th year as commissioner Thursday, and like most hockey fans I feel the need to mark the occasion by popping a bottle of champagne, chugging the entire thing in an effort to drown my misery and then smashing the empty bottle over my temple to black out the memories . . . There has never been a commissioner of a major North American sports league this inept, yet the league’s board of governors keeps employing him, keeps giving him another chance to sink this once-proud, once-vibrant league to new depths.”

No pulled punches here either:

“The Bettman era has been an unmitigated disaster for the league in virtually every possible way, one outrageously terrible initiative after another.”

Then Wetzel goes to the heart of the matter:

“I could write a book about Bettman’s insulting and imbecilic moves through the years (Chapter 9: “The Glowing Puck”) but the main problem has always been the same. He has shown no respect for the game, for its history, for its fans, for its unique qualities . . . The league is now overexpanded and overpriced, misplaced and misdirected. It is less exciting, less interesting, less traditional and more difficult to follow for the non-obsessive fan.”

Next Wetzel echoes OFB’s longstanding concern about families being economic casualties of the Bettman era: “It’s dispiriting that the league chased the fickle corporate dollar and priced out families.”
Any problems with the league’s schedule, Dan?

“The negatives are too numerous to list, but consider the league’s current uneven schedule which serves no purpose other than cutting travel costs for a few cheapskate owners. Teams play eight games per season against division foes, or 32 a year against just four teams.
“Bettman claimed it would spawn “new” rivalries. Of course, old rivalries such as Detroit-Toronto — two hockey-mad towns separated by a single highway that actually has an exit for Wayne Gretzky Blvd. — no longer play a home-and-home series each season. It’s like killing Red Sox-Yankees so Blue Jays-Diamondbacks might catch on.”

How good is the piece? “Fighting,” “hockey,” and “beer” are found in this lone sentence:

“And, since fighting has been curbed, the “new” rivalries haven’t really taken because a hockey rivalry without fighting is like non-alcoholic beer.”

And on that note, we conclude: Mr. Wetzel, when business next brings you to Washington — hopefully not to cover a stands-empty “showdown” in the Southeast — we at OFB will be purchasing you all of your beer.

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5 Responses to A Moment of Perfect Media Clarity

  1. pepper says:

    The instigator penalty. Expansion to 30 teams. Allowing teams to leave Hartford, Quebec, and Winnipeg. Conference seeding for the playoffs. Creating six divisions, and eliminating the division names acknowledging history (I recognize these are relatively recent in NHL history, but not expansion history). Two referees. The obstructive (to the fan in the seats) nets above the end and corner glass. And now, I suppose, the uniform systems, f/k/a sweaters.
    Thanks for re-instating tag up off-sides at least.
    The big point, as mentioned in the article, is less tradition, i.e. less continuity. Baseball conjures up a much stronger connection to the past than does the NHL, at least as concerns pro hockey in the US.
    In the US, the message seems to constantly be how to distort the product to quickly draw the attention of the modern-day ESPN viewer, who is too focused on ultimate fighting, and the odd NHL or NBA highlight, to care. Like a desperate politician, the NHL under Bettman has always bended to what it perceives as the desire of the audience (read American audience).
    The message should be promoting a proud product rooted in a long tradition in the lower 48 and the independent spirit that brought the game here.

  2. Brad says:

    The current product that the NHL has placed on the ice has made me turn my hockey attention to the minor leagues. It’s a more entertaining style in the low minors, actual grinding, hitting, and yes a few fights, and not fighting just for fightings sake. Stand up for your teammates kind of fights. Until the NHL stops being a European style toepick show, I’ll keep to the minors.

  3. A great and passionate piece. You do understand that Bettman is but a mere figurehead representing the NHL Board of Governors. He’s basically there to be the fan that the sh!t hits. He’s no idea guy. All these buffooneries have been voted on by owners who are newcomers to the sport, interseted only in maximizing a profit that the NHL promised with expansion.
    Bettman was at the Dryden ceremony Monday and didn’t even know he had won 6 Cups in 8 years – he was totally surprised when told this.
    A Commissioner with some hockey knowledge is desperately needed. Despite that his influence is hands off – he’s still a blaring embarrassment to the game.

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