I wanted to comment further on a few things from the interview between Gary Bettman and Ron MacLean the other day.
First off, Bettman complained about MacLean asking about franchise health during a great playoffs. I don’t think there’s any real reason to do that, other than an attempt at obfuscation, since that’s the area where one can expect Bettman to be an authority. There isn’t much point in asking a man like Bettman about the quality of hockey being played – he’s always going to say it’s a high quality event, as he did during the so-called dead puck era – because that’s in his best interest. It also doesn’t make sense to ask him about tactics or players or things of that nature; he’s not a player, coach or general manager, he’s responsible for the business of hockey. Bettman can dislike it all he wants, but the one area where what he says really matters is on the business front, and franchise health is a big part of that.
I believe MacLean mis-stepped in saying he was asking questions on behalf of the players. I don’t know if he meant that or he just grabbed on to the first thing that came to mind, but the fact is that Bettman was right that players could ask themselves. When MacLean asks something on HNIC, he’s asking on behalf of his viewers, and I think that was a defensible position, particularly given the Canadian audience. The country has had two teams fold up and move south, and with the Canadian dollar trending the other way asking about franchise health is a natural question.
Southern Ontario is an interesting question. It seems like the most financially viable location, and since the NHL is in the business of making money it’s fair to ask why they don’t have that location at the top of the list for relocation. Smarter people than me have pointed to the money available in expansion fees, and the rumour that the NHL is looking at eventually moving to 32 teams has been around for a while. I suspect that is the reason Bettman’s not interested in relocating a team there (as well as protecting the interests of Toronto and Buffalo) but I can understand that he wouldn’t want to say anything about it on TV. It was a fair question to ask, and it was fair of Bettman to use Winnipeg and Quebec City as cover on the issue, but I’d be very surprised if he regarded those cities as better NHL markets than another Ontario-based team.
In my last post on the interview, one commenter in particular took offence to the way MacLean put the questions and handled the interview, and there’s some merit to that. My point of view is that Bettman’s such a good lawyer that in almost every interview I’ve seen or read he just brushes aside questions and sticks to his message, and that MacLean’s the only one who consistently challenges him on it. Bettman’s so good at manipulating the media into a simple relay for his message that it’s refreshing to see anyone challenge him on points, and MacLean at least does that.