stats
globeinteractive.com: Making the Business of Life Easier

   Finance globeinvestor   Careers globecareers.workopolis Subscribe to The Globe
The Globe and Mail /globeandmail.com
Home | Business | National | Int'l | Sports | Columnists | The Arts | Tech | Travel | TV | Wheels
space


Search

space
  This site         Tips

  
space
  The Web Google
space
   space



space

  Where to Find It


Breaking News
  Home Page

  Report on Business

  Sports

  Technology

space
Subscribe to The Globe

Shop at our Globe Store


Print Edition
  Front Page

  Report on Business

  National

  International

  Sports

  Arts & Entertainment

  Editorials

  Columnists

   Headline Index

 Other Sections
  Appointments

  Births & Deaths

  Books

  Classifieds

  Comment

  Education

  Environment

  Facts & Arguments

  Focus

  Health

  Obituaries

  Real Estate

  Review

  Science

  Style

  Technology

  Travel

  Wheels

 Leisure
  Cartoon

  Crosswords

  Food & Dining

  Golf

  Horoscopes

  Movies

  Online Personals

  TV Listings/News

 Specials & Series
  All Reports...

space

Services
   Where to Find It
 A quick guide to what's available on the site

 Newspaper
  Advertise

  Corrections

  Customer Service

  Help & Contact Us

  Reprints

  Subscriptions

 Web Site
  Advertise

  E-Mail Newsletters

  Free Headlines

  Globe Store New

  Help & Contact Us

  Make Us Home

  Mobile New

  Press Room

  Privacy Policy

  Terms & Conditions


GiveLife.ca

    

PRINT EDITION
GAME CHANGER / It's time for Bettman to show some leadership
space
space
By STEPHEN BRUNT
  
  

Email this article Print this article
Friday, March 11, 2011 – Page A1

Hockey is under attack. And pressure is building on the NHL to take action. The long-term impact of concussions is becoming clearer even as hockey stars from Sidney Crosby to Max Pacioretty keep dropping to the ice, casting serious doubt on the integrity of Canada's game. Sponsors, such as Air Canada, are blowing the whistle. Prime Minister Stephen Harper is 'very concerned' and believes 'the league's got to take a very serious look at that for its own sake.' Players, owners and others have joined the call for stiffer penalties and safer hockey. How long will NHL commissioner Gary Bettman ignore the demand for change?

********

sbrunt@globeandmail.com

A question arises naturally as one of the worst weeks in National Hockey League history draws to a close.

So just who is in charge here?

The referee, who decided in the moment that Zdeno Chara's hit on Max Pacioretty was sufficiently serious and sufficiently against the rules to assess him a minor, major and game misconduct?

The league's senior executive vice-president, usually the judge, jury and executioner when it comes to the NHL's disciplinary process, who in this instance had to recuse himself because his kid plays for the offending team, and who in a leaked series of e-mails was previously revealed to be a stereotypical hockey dad?

Or his second-in-command, thrust into the breech, who chatted with Mr. Chara by phone Wednesday, and then ruled that the aforementioned illegal hit, which caused profound damage to Mr. Pacioretty's neck and brain, was worthy of no supplementary discipline at all?

Or how about the commissioner, whose contract has quietly been extended another five years?

People familiar with the workings of the NHL are used to this kind of gong show, especially the hockey-obsessed populace of this country, who at this stage are way beyond eye-rolling.

But in moments like these it is especially worth stepping back and looking at the NHL afresh.

There's only one conclusion to be drawn: this is no way to run a sport, no way to run a business, and the failing, in all of its permutations, is one of leadership.

There is a vacuum here, a lack of direction that no one outside of the game can right.

There's no point in calling in the police and the courts to deal with the Chara hit, and if a legal remedy is pursued, history tells us that route will almost certainly lead to a dead end.

Same goes for the veiled threats from Parliament Hill, the expressions of concern from the Prime Minister's Office: just how would one legislate away what happened on Tuesday night?

At least the shot across the bow from Air Canada is something novel - hard to remember one of the league's sponsors going public with its discomfort before. But the suspicion is that it was the emotional, Montreal-based response of a Montreal-based company, so don't hold your breath waiting for it to strip its name off the rink in Toronto.

Whatever is being said on the outside, credibility comes from within, and only from within. Although he is employee, not emperor, this must be Gary Bettman's time.

Sure, he's got himself into a pickle trying to make the corpse of the Phoenix Coyotes appear lifelike, juggling all kinds of conflicting interests and telling all kinds of little white lies.

Sure, the league's murky disciplinary process is tied up in knots by precedent, and no one in the game will ever be comfortable stating what seems unequivocally true: that the NHL, in part, is in the violence business, which means it is willing to accept significant risks to the health of its players.

But the role of a commissioner is also different from that of CEO, whose only concern is protecting the interests of the shareholders.

Professional sport is in many ways a faith-based entertainment business. The fans, who buy in not just for a couple of hours of distraction, but often for a lifetime, need to think of the game as distinct from the commercial aspects of the game. There is something pure and essential there, to be respected, to be protected.

A commissioner must pay at least lip service to principle. None of David Stern, Roger Goodell or Bud Selig (in descending order of confidence inspiration) are perfect, and all of them are beholden to their masters, the owners. But all have had moments when they understood they had to stand up and speak for their games.

Mr. Bettman can do that now, on the issue of Phoenix and Winnipeg, on the issue of head shots and discipline. For all the baggage, all the tawdry history, he's the only person with the power to say that what came before was wrong, and what happens from here on must be right.

Instead, what we have heard from him so far is impotent whining about the Goldwater Institute, the familiar knee-jerk defence of the Chara hit, and a veiled threat to the folks at Air Canada, suggesting that the league could always take its charter business elsewhere.

Petulance in the face of criticism and pressure: that's the measure of the man.

If Gary Bettman can't rise above it, even in these extraordinary times, then what is a commissioner for?

******

BY THE NUMBERS

Zdeno Chara

Age: 33

Height: 6'9"

Weight: 255 lbs

NHL debut: 1997-98

Career games: 913

Career points: 395

Max Pacioretty

Age: 22

Height: 6'2"

Weight: 195 lbs

NHL debut: 2008-09

Career games: 123

Career points: 49

Source: NHL.com


Huh? How did I get here?
Return to Main Stephen_Brunt Page
Subscribe to
The Globe and Mail
 

Email this article Print this article

space  Advertisement
space

Need CPR for your RSP? Check your portfolio’s pulse and lower yours by improving the overall health of your investments. Click here.

Advertisement

7-Day Site Search
    

Breaking News



Today's Weather


Inside

Rick Salutin
Merrily marching
off to war
Roy MacGregor
Duct tape might hold
when panic strikes


Editorial
Where Manley is going with his first budget




space

Columnists



For a columnist's most recent stories, click on their name below.

 National


Roy MacGregor arrow
This Country
space
Jeffrey Simpson arrow
The Nation
space
Margaret Wente arrow
Counterpoint
space
Hugh Winsor  arrow
The Power Game
space
 Business


Rob Carrick arrow
Personal Finance
space
Drew Fagan arrow
The Big Picture
space
Mathew Ingram arrow
space
Brent Jang arrow
Business West
space
Brian Milner arrow
Taking Stock
space
Eric Reguly arrow
To The Point
space
Andrew Willis arrow
Streetwise
space
 Sports


Stephen Brunt arrow
The Game
space
Eric Duhatschek arrow
space
Allan Maki arrow
space
William Houston arrow
Truth & Rumours
space
Lorne Rubenstein arrow
Golf
space
 The Arts


John Doyle arrow
Television
space
John MacLachlan Gray arrow
Gray's Anatomy
space
David Macfarlane arrow
Cheap Seats
space
Johanna Schneller arrow
Moviegoer
space
 Comment


Murray Campbell arrow
Ontario Politics
space
Lysiane Gagnon arrow
Inside Quebec
space
Marcus Gee arrow
The World
space
William Johnson arrow
Pit Bill
space
Paul Knox arrow
Worldbeat
space
Heather Mallick arrow
As If
space
Leah McLaren arrow
Generation Why
space
Rex Murphy arrow
Japes of Wrath
space
Rick Salutin arrow
On The Other Hand
space
Paul Sullivan arrow
The West
space
William Thorsell arrow
space





Home | Business | National | Int'l | Sports | Columnists | The Arts | Tech | Travel | TV | Wheels
space

© 2003 Bell Globemedia Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Help & Contact Us | Back to the top of this page