A letter to Gary Bettman regarding NHL participation in Sochi 2014

24Apr10

              The Olympics is a time where elite athletes from around the world participate for their chance at proclaiming themselves the best at their sport. Hockey is an Olympic sport and the NHL elite athletes have the same right as other elite athletes to participate in future games. The Vancouver Olympics were by far the best and the men’s hockey final trumped any match the NHL has had in the past decade (by the way that’s over 10,000 games). The only sour part to the great hockey games was that as a fan we were constantly being reminded what kind of a classless act you can be Mr. Gary Bettman. Here we have the best hockey players on the planet playing their hearts out and yet you chose to say numerous times to various media outlets “we have made no commitment to Sochi”. As a fan and as a religious follower of the sport I can tell you that every time I heard you say something ridiculous like that I lost a little more faith in the leadership of our sport. What makes things even harder for me as a fan to swallow is that you think we don’t get it, you think that we don’t get the economics of the sport or the difficulties in running a league like the NHL, but guess what we do and guess what we also watch other sports and pay attention to how their leaders conduct themselves and Gary you rank near the bottom of the pile, closer to Bernie Ecclestone.  All that being said I would like to point out some weaknesses in your logic behind NHL participation at the 2014 Sochi games.

1)      Time Zone difference;             I don’t buy this one bit, the last winter Olympics were in Torino Italy which is many time zones ahead of us, why are you trying to proclaim that it’s a logistical nightmare when it is in Russia? If it has been done once it can be done again.

 2)      Travel Schedule;            Really????? Are you forgetting that for the 2010-2011 season you have committed 6 NHL teams to start next season in Europe just like you have the past 3 years. You purposely have six teams start the NHL season at a disadvantage and then have the guts to say travel is an issue!!  If you could seriously please explain this one it would help a lot.

 3)      Compressed Schedule;      This is also one of your weaker arguments, if the schedule and the health of the players is such a concern for you why not say….   A) Shorten the meaningless and cash grab of the preseason (nobody really cares anyways)   B) first round of the playoffs is a best of 5   C) make it an 80 game season.  D) Ask the players if they mind a compressed schedule. Be creative for once instead of argumentative

 4)      There isn’t much incentive for us to go to Russia;      Really??? Yet there is incentive for you to  A) Cancel an entire NHL season, B) start games in European arenas of 12,000 fans   

        Now, with all that being said I would like to inform you of what I as a fan think of all your posturing. I believe that you are not committing to the Olympics because you need this as a bargaining chip for yet another round of CBA negotiations. I also believe that after your many years at the helm it is time for someone else to take charge. I also believe that having NHL players in the Olympics grows our sport just like it creates awareness for other sports. Another Canada-USA hockey match can’t be that bad for ratings even if it is in Sochi. The Crosby Ovechkin epic battle can continue to write new chapters in their never ending battle for dominance.

        If I could also add, instead of always trying to be confrontational why not do what the players and fans really want and what we want is NHL participation in the 2014 games. If you choose to ignore our wishes then you risk categorizing yourself as another Bernie Ecclestone, you will lose public favor and eventually you won’t be able to get any meaningful work done. What also irks me is that you preach partnership with the players yet the only partnership is with you and the owners, you preach “benefit of the game” yet you are a “detriment to the game”. Take a page from CFL commissioner Mark Cohon and ask the fans what they want, the CFL is growing and fan interest is growing even though it is only an 8 team league. I write to you because I care about our sport and right now I don’t feel confident in its future.

Signed, a very,very, very, very, passionate fan

P.L



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