After 20 years of booing, Gary Bettman still standing

Thu Jan 31, 2013 7:58pm EST
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By Steve Keating

(Reuters) - Gary Bettman will mark 20 years as commissioner of the National Hockey League (NHL) on Friday and on YouTube fans have posted a 97 second appraisal of his performance.

It is an unflattering montage chronicling two often stormy decades of Bettman awarding the Stanley Cup to the winning team, backed by a soundtrack of rancorous booing and occasional chants of "Bettman sucks."

A member of the exclusive commissioner's club, Bettman's counterparts - the National Football League's Roger Goodell, National Basketball Association's David Stern and Major League Baseball's Bud Selig - will also not likely win many popularity contests among their various constituencies.

But the commissioners concede that Bettman's job requires a thick skin to shield him from the wrath of agitated hockey fans.

"He's got a tough job, there is a little more required of Gary because of a matter of practice the Canadian media seems to kill him," Stern told Reuters. "That is a skill set that I'm not sure who else could take it but him.

"Roger (Goodell) has the same thing when he says the New Orleans Saints have to be sanctioned. I get it on discipline matters and lockouts but it seems that the harshest is saved for Gary. ... As a result he has had to put several coats of armor on his shield."

Bettman, a smallish man with elfin features and a purposeful walk, is an anonymous figure who can slip in and out of the NHL headquarters in Manhattan unnoticed by most passerby.

But in Canada, he is as recognizable as Prime Minister and avid hockey fan Stephen Harper. In the game's spiritual home, Bettman is like Darth Vader, an outsider who has taken Canada's passion and stomped on their hockey-loving hearts.   Continued...

National Hockey League (NHL) Commissioner Gary Bettman announces the end of labor negotiations between the NHL and the NHL Players Association (NHLPA) in New York in this file photo from January 9, 2013. Bettman will mark 20-years as National Hockey League commissioner February 1, 2013 and on YouTube fans have posted a one minute, 37 second appraisal of his job performance. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson/Files