The commissioner may have pushed the 2012-13 season to the brink of oblivion, but he works for the owners, not the fans. As far as the bigwigs are concerned, he did his job.
While GMs and fans obsess over how much money they can afford to give P.K. Subban or Ryan Johansen, it seems as though the owners have no problem giving commissioner Gary Bettman a pay bump, no matter the circumstance.
According to Chris Botta of SportsBusiness Journal, Bettman was paid $8.8 million in salary and benefits for the 2012-13 season, despite the fact the campaign was truncated by a lockout. As Sean Leahy of Puck Daddy noted, that was an increase in benefits from the 2011-12 fiscal year when Bettman made $8.3 million.
The immediate reaction in the blogosphere to this news was one of mirth: Is Bettman really worth more than Steven Stamkos or Drew Doughty? This will be an unpopular sentiment, but yeah, he is…to the owners.
I understand why most fans don’t like Bettman. If you live in Canada, you see a man who took away two of your beloved franchises (eventually giving one of them back) and expanded in the South faster than Chick-fil-A. If you’re a hockey fan anywhere, you see a man so steely cold that he has presided over three separate labor disruptions during his tenure, one of which shamefully saw the Stanley Cup go unawarded in 2004-05.
If you’re an owner, however, you gotta love the guy.
Bettman has taken the NHL to previously unforeseen heights of economic success. He constantly keeps in touch with all 30 franchises and got a major American TV deal done without bowing to the Lebron-and-Tebow monolith that is ESPN, where hockey would not have been a priority. In Canada, he negotiated an insane deal with Rogers media that netted the league $5.2 billion over the next 12 years. And it seems like he barely had to break a sweat to do so.
As for the lockouts that have dotted his tenure, Bettman always needs the support of the owners to take such drastic action and each time they have been on board (or at least a majority of them).
There’s always going to be a disconnect between the fans of the game and the NHL and Bettman is the focal point. While we all consider hockey our game and the NHL an entity that would not exist without our support, it is still technically a business owned by 30 different franchises. And according to those bosses, Gary Bettman has been employee of the month for quite some time now.