If you follow the pulse of NHL chatter on Twitter, you “learn” a lot of “things” about the wonderful Commissioner of the NHL. For example, did you know:
- That Gary Bettman hates Canada with the burning rage of the dual Tatooine suns?
- That Gary Bettman is pulling strings – as I type this – to ensure that the Penguins, Capitals, Coyotes, and Red Wings, are all going to win the Cup this year?
- That Gary Bettman has Sidney Crosby pyjamas, a Sidney Crosby poster above his bed, and a picture of Sidney Crosby in a heart-shaped locket around his neck?
That’s just the tip of the iceberg, and as much of a lie telling doofus as Gary Bettman is, clearly much of the hate is off-the-wall. He’s brought it on himself, but sometimes we get a little ahead of ourselves.
But the League’s top executive, and his team of cronies (hi, Colin! hi, Bill!) has really done it this time. For years fans have been waiting for the NHL to do something about the growing number of head shots and concussions, to little or no avail. Many assumed that if Sidney Crosby were to ever go down with a head injury, the league’s head office inhabitants would turn themselves inside-out in order to implement some sort of rule to curb headshots. They can’t lose the poster-child, can they? Surely the NHL’s offices would collapse like Barad-Dur if the Golden Boy were to miss extended action, right?
Lo, and behold that time is upon us.
As you know by now, Sidney Crosby was clobbered by David Steckel and Victor Hedman in consecutive games shortly after the calendar rolled over to 2011, and has yet to return to action. In fact, he has yet to resume light exercise. Whispers are now gaining steam, leading Globe and Mail columnist (and my favorite sports journalist / sports writer) Stephen Brunt to reveal on the Team 990′s airwaves that he has heard that Crosby may not be back at all this year.
Perfect. The NHL’s best player, the face of the league and the spearhead of many marketing efforts *may* miss the playoffs (and scuttle Bettman’s chances to further line the rafters at the Pens’ shiny new arena with Cup banners). Oops!
I’m not saying that any kind of legislation or rule would have protected the league’s top player, who was in the midst of one of the best seasons we’ve seen in a while, from injury. What I am saying is that now the discussion has just became a lot more complicated for Gary and his band of merry incompetents. Complicated, not because the solutions are difficult to pin down and implement (they are complex) but because he’s brought a mess to his doorstep that was entirely avoidable by merely taking their collective heads out of the sand. It’s better to do something than to do nothing. The blindside hit rule (rule 48) is a nice start, but it’s only that – a start. That the refs still can’t consistently enforce that rule points to the fact that the league really isn’t all that focused on making things better. The way the NHL has approached this issue, they’ve made it sound like curbing head shots is akin to achieving time travel. Maybe Emmett “Doc” Brown is available for consultation? My money is on the NHL cleverly ambushing him on October 21, 2015, since they’ll know exactly where he will be.
For argument’s sake, if they decide to crack down and institute real measures (rules, consequences, assessments, treatments) to get rid of head shots and lessen the severity of concussions, people that despise Crosby and Bettman (there are plenty in both camps) will say it was only done to protect the “Chosen One”. Bruins fans in particular may bristle at this after one of their stars, Marc Savard was decimated by Matt Cooke. If the boneheads continue to drag their heels (as well as their knuckles), they’ll be accused of not caring about the stars, the fans, the product, or the game. His continued reluctance to apply common sense in the face of a terrible rash of recent head injuries has now landed him squarely between a rock and a hard place. Maybe Gary can have a sit-down with a really brave guy who knows a thing or two about just that.
If I were Bettman, I’d rather suffer the consequences of being labeled as the former instead of the latter. He’s gone way beyond the point of getting credit for being “proactive” on the issue.
Your move, Gary.