Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Storm clouds on Gary Bettman's horizon

Gary Bettman launches the North American portion of the 2007-08 season on Wednesday by taking some time out of the afternoon to sit in with one of Canada's most informed and opinionated Sports talk hosts, Bob McCown.

The commissioner will appear on McCown's Prime Time Sports between 5 and 5:30 ET (2 and 2:30 PT) and field what should be a number of interesting questions from both McCown and his co-host this week Stephen Brunt.

In fact, Brunt may have published a primer on Tuesday for the Commissioner to study, featuring a couple of troubling developments for the league bureaucracy to examine and sort out. Some percolating issues, which try as he might, don't appear to be on the verge of going away any time shortly.

In his Globe and Mail column on Tuesday, Brunt examined the state of the league as they prepare to drop the puck on another chase for Lord Stanley's mug. His findings show that the league is doing quite well in Canada, where the suddenly skyrocketing loonie is making for a cash flow bonus that provides for more dollars in the Canadian franchise treasuries, while the southern teams begin to feel the pain.

Included in his column on Tuesday were a couple of interesting brush fires that have flared up this week for the league to address. The on again/off again saga of the Nashville Predators sale seems to have moved into the death throes again this week. As the new council in the Nashville area, has not smiled beneficially on some of the "changes" that the Preds would like to make to such things a lease arrangements and other financial subsidies that the city is underwriting to keep the Preds part of the Nashville scene.

Brunt also examined the washing of some dirty laundry heading into opening night, examining a Larry Brooks story for the New York Post, which reported that Madison Square Garden chief executive officer James Dolan has been busy blasting the league office for incompetent handling of the NHL brand. Dolan who seems to enjoy controversial roles these days, took time out from the legal woes that have befallen MSG to drop a little diversionary bomb at the doorstep of Gary Bettman.

Dolan believes the Rangers do a far better job selling their product in all of its permutations than the league ever could. Said Doolan, "we believe that the league continues to squander opportunities to improve our business and solidify and grow our fan base." He pulled out some interesting numbers to back his case, recounting how some 93 per cent of the NHL overall revenue (up from 91 per cent before the lockout) is generated by the teams, with only 7 per cent generated by the league.

In effect, he's probably wondering what the NHL office is doing to not only justify its existence to improve the game on a wider agenda.

All in all it's going to make for an interesting thirty minutes of Bettman, Bob and Brunt, you can check it out at The Fan 590 website or on the various Sportsnet channels available across Canada.
There's also a good chance that the Bettman interview will be featured on the Fan590 podcast feed later on Wednesday afternoon or evening.

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