Has Gary Bettman made hockey better?

Gary Bettman is often credited with growing the NHL but as the Commissioner marks 30 years in charge, the Zone Time crew reflect on Bettman's legacy, good and bad.

Video Transcript

OMAR: Has Bettman, quote, unquote, "improved hockey?"

JULIAN MCKENZIE: I did say-- I did say, if he-- I did ask the question.

OMAR: For like, one good thing. That is true.

JULIAN MCKENZIE: I said my thing was to name one good thing about Gary Bettman.

OMAR: I can't, man.

JULIAN MCKENZIE: Say one nice thing about him.

OMAR: I can't. Because every decision he makes, makes no sense. They have these stupid digital ads. And he's like, oh, everyone we've talked to said it's a non-issue. Who, then? Who have you asked then?

SAM CHANG: Does it count as a nice thing about Gary Bettman, if I say like, to Omar's critique though, I think the worst actor there for the players is not Gary Bettman, but the NHLPA, who does a crap job?

OMAR: That's true.

JULIAN MCKENZIE: Bob Goodenow, Donald Fehr, come to mind.

OMAR: That's a good thing.


OMAR: That's the good thing. The one good thing is that he is at least doing relatively better than the NHLPA, which is a million times worse. Like, flip, man.

SAM CHANG: NHLPA has to be like, the least-competent union possible.

OMAR: Easily.

JULIAN MCKENZIE: In all the big major sports, I mean--

SAM CHANG: No, like, in the world.


JULIAN MCKENZIE: I don't-- Avry, do you have anything you want to say about Mr. Bettman?

AVRY LEWIS-MCDOUGALL: I will say one good thing. Back in the '90s, his ticketing plan did save the Oilers and Senators the connection of not moving to America. Back when these teams were on the verge of moving, when the dollar was like $0.14 compared to American, like, in the '90s, people forget.

The Oilers were going to move to Houston. They were going to move to Houston, Texas, in '98. They were cooked in Alberta. And he found a way to--

OMAR: B-oiled, even?


Thank you.

AVRY LEWIS-MCDOUGALL: He found a way to ensure it--

JULIAN MCKENZIE: That was very greasy.

AVRY LEWIS-MCDOUGALL: Yes. You mean "gree-zy?" But yeah, though, he--

- "Greeze!" "Greeze."

AVRY LEWIS-MCDOUGALL: But I'll give him that. He found a way to ensure that Oilers stayed in Edmonton, the Flames stayed in Calgary, and the Canucks stayed in Vancouver. If he didn't work to make sure that happened, there might have only been one or two teams left in this country in the NHL.

JULIAN MCKENZIE: OK, all right. Someone said at least one nice thing about Gary Bettman. We can go back to saying whatever we want about him now. We don't have to spend the entire segment talking. I figured I figured one person would at least bite on this.

And Avry bit on it that's fine. We can go to talk about everything else. Because Omar nailed it on the head. The fact that we're in a position where the National Hockey League is very far back, in terms of where they are with the other big four sports--

OMAR: Yep.

JULIAN MCKENZIE: And Connor McDavid makes as much as like, Patty Mills, in the NBA, Auston Matthews is up for a contract, like, next summer. And look, the Leafs, I still think the Leafs are going to resign it. But Auston Matthews should be hitting the open market, making like, trying to be like, give me $30 million a year. Like, this dude should be making millions upon millions.

OMAR: Yeah.

JULIAN MCKENZIE: And dude might only make like, what? 15?

OMAR: Yeah, probably.

JULIAN MCKENZIE: How much more money is he going to get?

OMAR: Honestly.

JULIAN MCKENZIE: For a player of his caliber to be on the open market with all the other-- with everything else going on with other teams salary caps, also mentioning too, it doesn't seem as if the salary cap might go up that much. At least for next year, anyway. And who knows what it'll be for the year after?

Well, how much is he really going to get? Who's going to say like, all right, I'm giving him $20 million. Who's going to give him $20 million?

OMAR: Like, do you see how--

JULIAN MCKENZIE: Especially if the salary cap doesn't go up.

OMAR: Do you see how crazy like, this free agency--


OMAR: --and like, the trade deadline is in the NBA? Players have signed like, two-year deals. And it's nuts! And you can't-- you can't do that in hockey. Imagine someone's like, Oh, I want like, the two-year like, 50-- they wouldn't. They'd be like, sure. OK, yeah, whatever. Right? Like, man? Man.

JULIAN MCKENZIE: Auston Matthew should be making Russell Westbrook money.


OMAR: Literally. Like--


OMAR: Yeah, go for it, Avry.

AVRY LEWIS-MCDOUGALL: And earlier today, Forbes released their list of team values among all franchises in the NBA, NFL, MLB, NHL, and MLS. And among the top 50 teams, not one NHL team got in the top 50.

OMAR: That's an embarrassment.

JULIAN MCKENZIE: Nah, Raptors are worth more than the Leafs.

OMAR: That's embarrassing.


OMAR: That's embarrassing.

SAM CHANG: Meanwhile--

OMAR: That's embarrassing.

SAM CHANG: Meanwhile, the NHL is like, the salary cap is going to increase by $1 million next year.

JULIAN MCKENZIE: $1 million dollars.


OMAR: Are you serious, man? Yo.

SAM CHANG: Dude, remember when people were like, after the new TV deal, the cap is going to skyrocket and we're all going to be able to spend so much money?

JULIAN MCKENZIE: Yeah, the pandemic, I guess, kind of played a role in that, but--

SAM CHANG: That was literally the Canucks' plan. They were like, well, we won't have cap problems, because the cap's going to go up significantly.

OMAR: , Yeah that screwed the Leafs over too. That's why Dubois was so committed on the we can, we will thing. Because it's like yeah, sure. The four are going to be making $40 million by then. But by then, the cap will be like, 95 or something like that. And yeah, looking at it, we're boned. We're screwed.