After the latest round of CBA negotiations broke off on Sunday afternoon, the Twitter world was abuzz with speculation on whether or not NHL commissioner Gary Bettman should attend tonight’s Hockey Hall of Fame ceremonies in Toronto.
The vast majority of fans – and a number of outspoken media members – feel it will be a major distraction if Bettman is on hand for the ceremony this evening. However, looking at this situation with a degree of impartiality, I feel it would be wrong if Bettman stepped aside and missed this event.
For starters, Bettman was the commissioner of the league for the vast majority of the careers of Adam Oates, Joe Sakic, Mats Sundin and Pavel Bure. Remember, he was the one who handed the Stanley Cup to Sakic on two occasions. So like it or not, Bettman was the keeper of the game while these players flourished on the ice.
On so many levels, it would be wrong if he skipped this event. If tonight is truly about celebrating all that is good about NHL hockey, then Bettman deserves a chance to be there as well. To not have the commissioner of the NHL on hand for one of the signature events on the calendar is just plain wrong.
As for those media members who are suggesting that his presence tonight will be a major distraction, I have a simple question for you: Who controls the stories that are published on a daily basis?
Last time I checked, those of us in the mainstream media dictate the major hockey stories of the day.
So what if we decided that for the next 12 hours, we wouldn’t report on the CBA negotiations? What if we focused all of our attention on the Hall of Fame inductees for just one night?
Let’s celebrate how special this is for Mats Sundin, to have his induction ceremony in the same city as he played in for so many years. Let’s re-live the brilliance of Pavel Bure once last time, while honoring the understated dominance of Joe Sakic and Adam Oates. And for those of us who have had the pleasure of knowing Roy MacGregor, we should have countless stories to tell about his induction into the media wing of the Hall of Fame. There is no shortage of wonderful hockey storylines tonight, so there is no need to focus on the negativity. We’ve done that enough for the past three months.
If Gary Bettman is present at the event tonight, there shouldn’t be a real reason to speak to him from a media standpoint. Unless there is anything new to report on the negotiations – and all indications point to there not being any – why don’t we just leave him alone for a night? Besides, he’s not going to say anything we haven’t heard in the past few days.
If Bettman’s appearance at the Hall of Fame ceremonies creates a distraction, some of the blame must fall onto us in the media. We love nothing more than to create distractions – and then report on them. But if we ignored Bettman’s presence, is it really a distraction? We owe it to classy individuals like Sundin, Sakic and MacGregor to give them their night in the spotlight.
Let’s leave the whole thing alone for 12 hours and agree that we’ll re-start the CBA coverage tomorrow. Trust me, that’s what the fans – you know, the people who watch our TV networks and read our papers – want more than anything else tonight.
So what if Bettman gets jeered a little bit when he makes a public appearance tonight. Remember, this is the unflappable commissioner who hands out the Stanley Cup each June while inevitably being showered with a chorus of boos from the fans inside the arena. If anyone knows how to handle an awkward situation at a signature NHL event, it’s Gary Bettman.
And having Bettman at the Hall of Fame ceremony isn’t a bad thing, when you consider that the NHLPA would like the next set of CBA negotiations to take place in Toronto. If he’s already made the trip to Toronto, we can always hold out hope that he’s willing to stay for a few extra days.