Gary Bettman has signed a contract extension to remain the commissioner of the National Hockey League that will skate through the 2022 season. He confirmed the extension on an interview with the NHL Network before Sunday’s All-Star Game. Although it was announced Sunday, Bettman said that the deal was signed “many, many months ago,” according to ESPN. Should Bettman last the duration of the extension, he will have been at the helm for a 30-year stint, just one year shy of the run Clarence Campbell had when he was the president of the NHL.
During his tenure, Gary Bettman has orchestrated major growth for the league, including four expansion teams and five franchise relocations. Most recently, under Bettman’s watch, the Atlanta Thrashers relocated to Winnipeg and became the Jets in the 2011-12 season, and the Phoenix Coyotes became the Arizona Coyotes for the 2014-15 season. Gary Bettman has also overseen a change in the playoff formatting on three separate occasions. The All-Star Game has also endured numerous makeovers, including this year which saw it adapt the three-on-three format for the entire game that gained popularity in NHL overtimes.
During Gary Bettman’s state of the league address on Saturday, the commissioner spoke glowingly about Don Fehr, the NHL Player’s Association executive director, and how their working relationship has helped the league grow and flourish.
“Don has brought stability and strength to the union, and that’s a good thing. He’s been a good working partner. That doesn’t mean we agree on everything, but we’re communicating well and working things out.”
Gary Bettman’s imprint on hockey is perhaps most visible from a financial standpoint. When he took over the position in 1993, the NHL was making $732 million. Now, it’s earning upwards of $4 billion a year. That leap is thanks in large part to its television contract agreements (mostly with NBC and its partners) that earn the league $2 billion in the United States and close to $5 billion in Canada. But it wasn’t always so rosy.
Under Gary Bettman, the NHL has had three labor-related work stoppages. A lockout completely wiped out the 2004-05 season and the 2012-13 and 1994-95 seasons were shortened due to labor disputes. As mentioned, Bettman’s contract extension runs through 2022, the same year that the current collective bargaining agreement will end. However, both the league and its player’s association have the option to opt out three years earlier in 2019.
Gary Bettman has received a large amount of criticism this past weekend for his handling of John Scott’s involvement in the All-Star Game, though Bettman did meet with the enforcer this weekend to welcome him to the festivities. Bettman’s also been criticized during his reign for trying to “Americanize” the sport, by trying to expand teams to the south, rather than focus on Canada and the north, where a strong fan base exists.
The 63-year old Gary Bettman replaced Gil Stein in 1993. Stein served as the league’s final president. Before accepting the position of commissioner, Bettman worked for the NBA beginning in 1981. Eventually, he’d become third in command and credits former NBA commissioner David Stern as a mentor. Stern also served as the head of his league for 30 years.
Among his more notable credentials, Gary Bettman was named “Sports Executive of the Year” in 2014 to which he said the following.
“It’s almost an out-of-body experience. This time of year, I’m normally presenting a trophy and getting booed. To receive one and get applause is really quite novel.”
And on whether getting booed so often ever bothers him.
“Not doing this job, no. You’re always going to have critics. What I’ve always told people: If I take the ice and it’s completely silent, then I’ll know I’m in trouble.”
[Photo by Frederick Breedon IV/Getty Images]