Kolupanowich: Time to take Bettman out of the Stanley Cup presentation

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman. (captcanuk/Wikimedia Commons)

By: Tim Kolupanowich, Executive Editor

@TimKolupan_

If there’s one thing that has become apparent to me throughout these Collective Bargaining Agreement negotiations and that is it’s time to take Gary Bettman out of the Stanley Cup presentation.

As hard as it is to do, when looking at the negotiations objectively, you have to admit Bettman is good at his job. He was selected by the owners and his only real allegiance is to those owners. Jeff Z. Klein of The New York Times explains how Bettman has done an excellent job maximizing profits and uniting owners since his stint as commissioner began in 1993.

He’s clearly on the side of the owners, but that’s what he gets paid for so in that respect, a job well done. From Klein:

Look at the bottom line and marvel at the job he has done. During Bettman’s tenure, N.H.L. revenue has grown from $400 million a year to $3.3 billion.

“He’s in charge,” said Jonathon Gatehouse, whose book “The Instigator: How Gary Bettman Remade the NHL and Changed the Game Forever,” the first in-depth biography of Bettman, was recently published. “It has been a gradual process over 20 years and has accelerated since his victory in the last lockout.”

He continued: “Had he failed to deliver in 2004-5, he wouldn’t be the commissioner anymore. But he did, and he has made them tons of money. If he wins this round, I think he’s emperor for life.”

He’s there for one reason and one reason only. Money. So I ask you, what does that have to do with the Stanley Cup?

Obviously it takes money to win the Stanley Cup, but the Cup itself does not care about money. It’s not there to make profits, it’s there to inspire, to dare kids to dream big and learn to make personal sacrifices for the good of the people around them.

The Stanley Cup exists for the players, not the owners. When Lord Fredrick Stanley of Preston, the 16th Earl of Derby donated the original Cup back in 1892, he did so in hopes it would go to the players. They’re the ones fighting, often literally, over a chance to lift the Cup; there’s not a single player who doesn’t want to achieve that ultimate goal. The owners? They’re penny-pinching profits which is clear when you look at how many won’t shell out the cash needed to make good teams great. The owners have become unified under Bettman, just as the players have under Fehr, with the bottom line and financial gain becoming their main goal. More from Klein:

The N.H.L. owners lured Bettman from the No. 3 job at the N.B.A. to install a salary cap. Only one year later, he attempted his first lockout, which cost about 42 percent of the 1994-95 season, but he did not win it. The owners were not unified behind him — at one point they defeated his proposal for a settlement, 14-12 — and in January 1995 he was forced to strike a deal short of the salary-cap goal.

In subsequent years, Bettman cajoled and even berated the owners into running their teams in a more fiscally responsible fashion.

A player taking a puck to the face for the owner is fine, but ask a billionaire to take a loss and suddenly you’re talking crazy.

It’s a glorious moment when the Cup is raised and 25 lucky players get to fulfill their lifelong dream and every year the moment is tainted when 20,000 people boo the guy trying to present the Cup. And maybe it’s just this observer, but the boos have been getting louder each year to the point where Bettman has to yell into the microphone just to give his little speech. Check out this video from Puck Daddy if you want proof.

There has to be a better way to present the Cup. The Cup is for the players, so let a player present it.

(Just to be fair, I’d like to point out this is not an original idea. I heard it a few years ago, unfortunately I can’t remember where in order to give a proper citation.)

There’s two ways to go about doing this, the first I really enjoy. How great would it be to have the captain of the previous team to win it come out to hand it away. The captain is the one who receives it, he should be the one to give it away again. This would have made for some great moments: just imagine Joe Sakic handing the Cup to Steve Yzerman in 2002 or the official changing of the guard in 2009 when Nicklas Lidstrom could have been the one to pass the Cup (and title of best player in the game) over to Sidney Crosby.

Of course there’s a problem if there is a repeat winner (Would Dustin Brown give a speech to himself or just grab the Cup off a table with no announcement in 2013?) so there’s another idea of having a former player be there to present the Cup. It would have been a phenomenal moment if Bobby Orr was the one to hand Zdeno Chara the Cup in 2011.

It’s a special moment, let’s not ruin it anymore. Looking back at those Cup presentations, it’s surprising more players haven’t tried to just take it and skate away like Carolina Hurricanes captain Rod Brind’Amour did in 2006 (Go to 2:10 of the video).

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