In reading about Gary Bettman, it’s clear that many of the things the NHL has demanded from its Players’ Association are lifted from work previously done with the National Basketball Association.
Forgotten is in how much trouble the NBA was when Bettman was hired by that league in 1981. The league had expanded to 23 teams, but arenas were half-full and the games were only televised late at night on tape-delay.
It’s almost a parallel to the NHL in the mid-2000s. The league switched over to a soft salary cap tied to league revenue, the first of its kind, and a modest new TV deal along with the arrival of a star player helped grow the game to fantastic heights.
Michael Jordan and Sidney Crosby are different people who appeal to different audiences and had different modicums of success upon entreating the league. Crosby was a phenom since his early teenage years, Jordan wasn’t even the No. 1 overall pick. His rookie success got him a Sports Illustrated cover and a major draw in opposing rinks.
Crosby only visit 19 road rinks in his rookie season; The second biggest failing of the NHL coming out of the last lockout was the emphasis on divisional regular season games that prevented star players from playing in every arena. He couldn’t be marketed the same way as Jordan, even though hockey is a lot like basketball in the way its season is structured. What remains though, is that him and a select few other NHLers generate a buzz when they’re in town. As such, they ought to be scheduled to play in every single rink.