I’ve figured out Gary Bettman’s grand master plan for the NHL.
He’s decided to run it without players.
No players means no games. No games means no overhead, no pesky salaries, no arena rentals, no worrying whether superstars get concussed, no superstars, and, best of all, no hockey. Now Bettman can focus on what really matters — selling NHL merchandise and taking the top job in the NBA after he torpedoes the sport he never liked in the first place. Welcome to the New NHL — The No Hockey League
It’s Bettman’s manifest destiny. First he took the game — and the Stanley Cup — from cities where fans tattoo team logos on their private parts to tropical locales where audiences buy tickets strictly to enjoy the air conditioning.
Then he added and altered rules to make the game progressively more confusing for players, nevermind fans, to follow.
And now that EA Sports predicts the outcome of each season — and each playoff series — with the uncanny ability of a soccer-loving octopus, there’s no need to actually play any games on ice; just buy the video console. For anyone missing the full playoff experience, EA Sports can add a special bonus component where they include the cityscapes of both the winning and losing team in their simulated finals and show what they look like after the riot(s). Flaming cars, angst-ridden politicians and sheepish police chiefs sold separately.
Now that management doesn’t have to worry about actually making jerseys for players they can go beyond those cheesy third jerseys and add a wide variety of “official” uniforms and logos designed for both collectors and fashionistas.
“Hockey Night in Canada” can switch to screening “classic” games, but keep them current by not telling Don Cherry they’re reruns. It’s not like he’ll notice. This way he can continue rambling on about “our boys” overseas without any viewers, or poor Ron MacLean, wondering why he’s not referencing the game he’s not interested in. And if Cherry does bother to glance at his TV monitor, he’ll be delighted and potentially on topic — he’s always happier talking about Bobby Orr, Boom Boom Geoffrion and Dougie Gilmour anyway,
Best of all, the Stanley Cup can live forever in the Hockey Hall of Fame — which is the only way the lovely people of Toronto were ever going to get to see it.
Meanwhile, the best players in the world can all go to Europe and the former Soviet Union where fighting is virtually outlawed and the larger ice surface mean they can play the type of fast-skating, high-scoring, fancy-passing, high-skills game that the NHL has absolutely no interest in.
Come home Alan Eagleson, all is forgiven.
– Mark Leiren-Young blogs at leiren-young.com