Yesterday the Hockey Hall of Fame released their 2018 inductees and while most of the names on the list are drawing praise, there is one name that is sparking outrage among former players and fans. That’s right folks, current National Hockey League Commissioner Gary Bettman has been named as an inductee to the HHOF.
You’re probably wondering what the heck is going on and you’re not alone. It’s odd that the HHOF would name Bettman as an inductee first because he’s still the commissioner of the league, usually if this happens it comes after said person retires and secondly because of the history Bettman has with the NHL.
Bettman became the commissioner in 1993 and has become the villain of the league drawing massive boos no matter what he’s doing in regards to the sport. But just in case you are unaware of the finer points of Bettman’s career as head honcho of the NHL, let me break it down for you.
During his tenure, the league did grow from 24 to 31 teams, he’s helped to raise the annual player’s salary, had a hand in helping to grow the league’s revenue to close to $5 billion annually, and helped get the game national television coverage. And while those moves have done a lot to grow the game in the United States (since ya know hockey is seen mostly as a Canadian sport), it’s the negative aspects of his tenure that have made him a villain.
There have been three lockouts since Bettman took office, two of which happened in the last fourteen years and there’s a fourth lockout looming. After years of debate, he finally ended NHL participation in the Olympics because of the fact that the league essentially shuts down for two weeks every four years and players can suffer season ending injuries (i.e. Tavares’ 2016 injury). And finally he’s largely ignored the league’s concussion problem. Daniel Carcillo is one of the former players loudly voicing his displeasure with Bettman’s HHOF spot, which you can see via the tweets below.
And I have to agree with Carcillo, the league has yet to address the concussion problem and by giving the commissioner this tremendous honor seems wrong. Sure, hockey fights have gone down throughout the years with a shift towards a ‘safer’ game, but that doesn’t address the hits these players face game in and game out. Nor does the league do their best job to make sure that players know how to safely play the game. Bettman a proclaimed business guy is focused more on growing the game and growing the bottom dollar.
So given all the negative aspects to Bettman’s legacy as NHL commissioner it feels wrong to honor him with such a prestigious honor. In my opinion calling Bettman a Builder and giving him this honor actually diminishes the honor of being in the HHOF, especially with guys like Billy O’Ree who was the first African American NHL player and has worked so hard to grow the game in the community or legendary goalie Martin Brodeur and forward Martin St. Louis who have impressive careers that warrant being celebrated.