The negative media coverage of the NHL continues in the USA, as TIME magazine weighs in with a story on the Bertuzzi incident and hockey violence. Gary Bettman’s worst nightmare is coming to the forefront, as the mainstream media paints his game as one of stumbling ratings, financial basket cases and nothing short of brutish violence.
The article, by Joel Stein, titled “Can the NHL save itself”, recounts the Bertuzzi stalking and punch on Steve Moore and then takes a look at the “code” of revenge that hockey lives by. With such lines as “if hockey were a normal sport” and “full of Mafioso laws about protection and honor.” Hockey gets painted as a sub sport in America, one not worthy of consideration by the educated or sophisticated fan. Stein offers the opinion that the NHL is in the worst shape of its history, having over expanded in the last decade. The game suffering from stifling defensive systems and fights for the sake of fighting set to music and sold as videos.
The television situation in the US was also examined in the article and the news there wasn’t particularly positive for Gary Bettman, Stein reports in the story, that Hockey on ABC can’t outdraw such “sports” as billiards, TV poker and bowling. Bettman gets to take that bit of knowledge into contract negotiations with ABC for a new contract this summer. Of course as Stein points out, as if things aren’t bad enough, now there’s the likelihood that the league won’t even operate next year, involved in an ugly labour standoff with it’s union. He also recounted the brutal financial findings presented by Arthur Levitt in his audit of the leagues finances.
Using quotes from John Davidson, Stein points out how the league is being portrayed, with many media types referring to Bertuzzi as someone who should be jailed for life for his attack on Moore, not how you want your higher profile players showcased. Davidson also hopes that the black eye will serve as a wake up call for the NHL, spurring it to avoid the upcoming labour stoppage before they lose any more people than they can afford.
The final shots in the article are the most damaging for Gary Bettman, and will most likely give him thought to cancel his subscription. Stein wraps it up with the comment that the Bertuzzi type of violence must be stopped before someone gets killed. He then draws the comparison of the rage of violence to that of another American event, one which was portrayed in the same light as Wrestling.
His final thought, “you should have seen the last days of roller derby” OUCH! That sound you hear, it’s Gary Bettman banging his head on his desk, his sport mocked in the mass market leading newsmagazine. It’s not the image he would want presented of his sport and certainly not the one the owners, players and fans would like to have portrayed.