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It's business time

Gary Bettman has quite a few battles on his hands this off-season. (Photo By Dave Sandford/Getty Images)

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Gary Bettman has quite a few battles on his hands this off-season. (Photo By Dave Sandford/Getty Images)

Though it’s the NHL’s off-season, some interesting developments are going on across the league right now – and not just at Friday’s Entry Draft in Ottawa.

As luck would have it, your questions address a couple of those situations quite nicely, so let’s get to ’em:

(Oh, and remember, I’m off next week, so my THN comrades will be stepping in and dealing with you next Friday, but keep the questions coming.)

Adam,

The recent sale of the Tampa Bay Lightning got me to thinking. Every year we hear stories about how several teams are losing millions of dollars every year. But there seems to be an endless stream of well-heeled individuals willing to plunk down a couple hundred million when a team goes up for sale.

What on earth is their business plan? How do these guys make money with these teams? Is it based solely on appreciation (i.e. the next guy will pay 210 million and so on)?

Thanks. I want to know before I make the investment :-)

Dr. Thomas Anderson, Detroit, Mich.


Dr. Thomas,

Boosting the value of franchises has long been the primary focus of most teams in the league and certainly of commissioner Gary Bettman himself. Look no further than the zeal with which the league went after expansion franchise payouts, before really considering the long-term commitments that would be necessary for any and all of those expansion franchises to succeed.

Which is why it’s so very, very odd that Bettman and former Predators owner Craig Leipold scampered away from Jim Balsillie’s lucrative offer to buy the Preds franchise, instead preferring a lesser payout from local investors and, for Leipold, a subsequent purchase of the Minnesota Wild.

Why, it’s almost as if Leipold was allowing Bettman to dictate his business decisions regarding the Preds, with the promise from the commissioner of quid pro quo down the line.

And now that it has been reported a significant investor in Nashville’s local ownership group (a.k.a. William Del Biaggio) was working a smoke and mirrors act, the egg on Bettman’s face is significant and not easily removed.

There are more than a few people in the hockey world eagerly anticipating the commissioner’s strategies to help the league get past a wobbly U.S. economy and a collective bargaining agreement that, once again, is not the bulletproof document Bettman held it up to be.

Many of those people think his shell game might have finally run its course.

Adam,

I've been reading your articles for a long time and they're really good.

I saw today that they finally honored Glenn Anderson and he is going to the Hockey Hall of Fame. I would like to know why it took them so long to recognize him, after 13 years or so of not playing.

I think there is something wrong with the system – what do you think?

Gregg Quadrozzi, Pittsfield, Mass.

Gregg,

Your compliment is much appreciated. And your question is a good one.

I have no idea why Anderson’s induction into the HHOF took nearly a decade-and-a-half to confirm; his statistics and contributions to the game should’ve made him a cinch to join the Hall a long, long time ago.

But when it comes to the Hockey Hall of Fame’s induction committee, nothing really surprises me. And that’s because it continues to operate under a veil of secrecy that could serve as the focus of the next Da Vinci Code movie.

In an era where transparency is a valued and an often-demanded approach to virtually all aspects of society, the HHOF allows its most important decisions to be made by a group of middle-aged (to be kind) white dudes who aren’t required to make the thoughts and opinions that went into their decisions available to the public.

That’s just not right – and it’s definitely not the way other modern sports’ halls of fame operate.

To be sure, there are some good people who are on the HHOF’s selection committee, people whose judgment and character are beyond reproach.

Nevertheless, so long as those people allow the Hall’s induction process to be held out of view of the general public – you know, the people they depend on to pay admission to the place – they do themselves and the men (and I do mean only the men) they induct a huge disservice.

Hey Adam,

Now that the Leafs have pretty much made it clear they are waiting a year for Brian Burke and will have Cliff Fletcher "fill in" for another whole season, do you see him making the "radical changes" that he talked about when they brought him in last season, or will he just tread water until they bring in the new GM?

Kenton Scott, Courtice, Ont.


Hey Kenton,

Judging by the Maple Leafs’ acquisition of veteran forward Jamal Mayers from St. Louis late Thursday night, it sure seems as if Fletcher is going with the tried-and-tired “tread water” approach to building a winner yet again.

Leafs management will still have the rest of draft weekend and the free agency period to demonstrate there’s some coherent plan they’re following.

Frankly, though, I stopped giving team president Richard Peddie the benefit of the doubt a long time ago. I’ll believe anyone he hires knows what they’re doing – or at least, has the freedom to show they know what they’re doing – when I see tangible proof.

Adam,

You always seem to have the inside scoop. So, what is wrong with Gary Bettman?

I just read that he is attempting to kick out Rangers ownership. With all the problems that the NHL is facing with American audiences, Bettman is now attempting to alienate some of the richest owners in what is possibly the most important American media market.

I don't know the details of the case, only that it is over control of the Rangers’ website (which was much better before the NHL took it over). It seems that by alienating such an important stakeholder, Bettman is damaging the league’s long-term goals for the sake of pride.

Is there reason behind this madness, or is it just as it seems?


Thanks,

Jules Monteyne, New Orleans, La.


Jules,

Thanks for the kind words. And here’s hoping your beautiful city soon gets the help it needs in its continued recovery from Mother Nature’s wrath.

What’s this? Another Bettman-related question? Looks like many of you want the guy held accountable for his success blueprint. It’s obvious why you’re not fit to be NHL-owner material.

I find it quite appropriate Bettman is currently dealing with a major problem with one of his small-market teams (Nashville) and now faces a revolt from a big-market, Original Six franchise. It’s as if the hockey gods are laying bare the commissioner’s deficiencies for all the game’s fans to see.

I’m no supporter of Rangers owner James Dolan, either; any ownership group that apparently has bestowed a lifetime contract on GM Glen Sather – and whose paranoid PR policies seem to have been lifted from the Hockey Hall of Fame’s selection committee – deserves every bit of criticism it gets.

In other words, these two selfish interests seem perfectly matched to battle each other in court.

It’ll be particularly interesting to see whether the league takes the Rangers out of its current plans to have them open the 2008-09 season in the Czech Republic. But whatever the result of the Rangers vs. Bettman, it’s clear yet again why this league can’t measure up to its competitors in the professional sport arena.

As it should, the blame for that sad reality starts at the very top. 

Ask Adam appears Fridays in the summer only on The Hockey News.com. To send us your question or comment, click HERE.

Adam Proteau is The Hockey News' online columnist and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Mondays and Wednesdays and his column, Screen Shots, appears Thursdays.

For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, Subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.

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