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What's a Commissioner To Do - Part 1

In the Funk and Wagnell's dictionary, a commission is described as follows: The act of committing to the charge of another; authorization or command to act as follows.

Commissioner is thus defined in this manner: A public official in charge of a department; in baseball, etc, an official selected as a supreme authority.

I have my qualms with the "official selected as supreme authority" statement.

While there is a tendency to see it that way, in general terms, it is somewhat misleading. "Selected" should read "hired", "supreme authority" should be considered "focal point" or "person entailed with the enforcement of policy."

Who determines the commissioners agenda? Who entrusts the commissioner with undertaking and executing the wide scope of league issues? Who fires or relieves a commissioner from duty?

The answer to all the above is, of course, the league itself - meaning the various team owners, team presidents, and members of those teams executive boards of governors.

The "supreme authority" misnomer is most often associated with baseball, where the commissioner acted in "the best interests of the game", which in truth means, the best interests of the ownership group.

In summary, he acts as he is told to, in protecting the owners financial investment in the league.

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman's job description could almost include the terms "target of wrath", so despised is he among hockey fan circles. Of course, the owners prefer it this way, as it removes blame for the games woes from them. It reduces the vitriol of public accountability for their ideas, smokescreens their true intentions, and hides their motions and manoeverings inside the games backrooms.

Bettman is a lawyer, not a hockey man. He is an owners commissioner, not a players best ally, and not a fans best voice.

His job and bottom line are all about dollars and cents, not hockey sense.

He has been set up to appear as the game's spearheading, trailblazing, voice of reason. It's an illusion he has always worn in discomfort. When asked any pointed question, Bettman skirts the issue with legalese ease. He's never played hockey, but he sure can skate around a hit! In essense, it is the job he is being paid to perform.
He will never be remotely liked by fans and knows it. One the other hand, he will always appear oblivious to looming trouble on the horizon. It's good game, smart game even, to never discuss publicly, the bottom line concerns of the league. In a PR mode, Bettman will always swipe away such concerns.

In the end, he don't work for us fans and ticket buyers.

If hockey fans had their way, the commissioner of the NHL would be some type of amalgamation of Wayne Gretzky, Brian Burke, Bob Gainey and Don Cherry. If that person could ever exist, it would suit every fan and hockey thinker, good or bad.

If that person did exist, the NHL board would never elect him. His agenda would never be theirs.

For the time being, fans are stuck with Bettman, but the real issues reside inside a group of dysfunctional owners from opposite perspectives. In their quest for hockey growth, each step forward has been two steps back. As things come to a head this season, they can only agree to disagree.

Are hockey fans prepared for things to get worse before they get better?

Gary Bettman would be best to brush up on his doublespeak dictionary and prepare for the wrath.