Tonawanda News

Sabres

September 6, 2012

MENDOLA: Bettman continues to embrace clown costume

The hockey headlines have very little to do with sticks, pucks and ice these days, unless of course you count the rhetorical frozen water the National Hockey League owners and Players Association envision plugging up the love of the game in their opponents' hearts.

The news Thursday is that there is no news. The two sides traded counteroffers Aug. 30 and the two sides have been in recess since then. The Winnipeg Jets publicly acknowledged the elephant in the room with an email to their season ticket holders, a message that must've been met with about as much shock as a spoiled surprise party.

Business is business, but it remains amazing that the two sides are so insulated from the public's barometer. Hockey has made more money thanks to an intelligent television deal with NBC Sports, but there isn't a fan out there who fails to realize what the NHLPA and owners seem willing to overlook: Their sport is miles and miles from its former spot as a Top Four professional sport in America.

Anyone near the Internet, TV or radio knows football is the kingpin and it doesn't take much more than donning a Yankees or Red Sox cap to see the weight still carried by baseball. Hockey doesn't have a Jon Bones Jones or a LeBron James. Heck, argue Manchester United's Wayne Rooney over the Pittsburgh Penguins' Sidney Crosby and chances are that argument would be won. Think that's silly? Go to middle America and see which name gets funnier looks.

"Sidney Crosby? Is that Honey Boo-Boo's real name?"

Some have tried to remove NHL commissioner Gary Bettman from the fray, noting that the long-tenured boss is simply a representative of the owners and — at best — a conduit to the players. This notion couldn't be more wrong. Bettman has not just been involved in two (soon to be three) work stoppages, he's been the central figure. Much like his mentor, NBA boss David Stern, Bettman seems to have no understanding of how egotistical he sounds when he opens his mouth. Unlike Stern, the NHL's boss is remarkably out of touch with his business.

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