47319Re: [hockhist] Bettman must be removed.
- Feb 1, 2005Bill,
First let me say I do like your idea of bringing in someone like a Dave Branch. That makes a lot of sense.
But going back to my point look what the CFL did. They brought in Tom Wright - the former head of Adidas to run their league. He was and is a football fan but more importantly he is a good business person. He related to the other owners as business people first and foremost and got the league operating as a business. It has been over a year so far and the CFL is doing better then ever. The fans accept him as he has a proven track record in business and clearly loves the CFL and the sport. But that in no way detracts from his job of running the business which is known as the Canadian Football League. The players respect him for the same reasons.
Bill, as I have said the NHL has tried other ways of running their business except the most obvious - hire a business person who, yes, loves hockey, but will operate the league much like GE, Exxon, Ford, etc. For people who disagree just keep in mind the NHL is a business - not a sport. The job of teams is maximize return to the owners and shareholders - not win championships. If winning helps add to the bottom line then so be it. But most teams will not "blow the budget" to win. (Case in point - the Toronto Maple Leafs.)
----- Original Message -----
From: William Underwood
Sent: Monday, January 31, 2005 8:41 PM
Subject: RE: [hockhist] Bettman must be removed.
The CFL has a TV contract because they get TV ratings in their market,
the NHL does not. You'd need a magician or miracle worker to change that
in the US. No matter who you had as a commissioner they will not get a
better deal from the US networks, in fact they are lucky to have the one
that they just signed. And it isn't going to get better, ESPN is
actually getting BETTER ratings WITHOUT hockey this year!
The problem with hiring a businessman from outside of sport is two fold.
One, he is generally an exec who is used to people jumping when he talks
as opposed to having to walk on egg shells, beg, and plead billionaire
The secret to Peter Rozelle's success was simple. He was a PR guy who
understood how to glad hand. He could get a guy out on the golf course
and push and idea that he had been diametrically opposed to and by the
ninth hole have the guy parroting Pet's plan and him saying "gee George
that is a GREAT idea YOU had, why don't we both introduce it at the next
meeting." He could charm an opponent. He also was from a football
background, He KNEW these guys and the way the sport worked. What fears
had to be alleviated and there were quite a few in the early national TV
deal era. But Pete had seen it from his days with the Rams in the early
TV days. This brings us to point two. Sports are a unique industry. The
motivations for involvement in them differ (ego versus bottom line), the
concept of profit differs (often it is to show a loss or create
ancillary revenues) and behavior is different. Hell, what non sports
business could get into the mess that the NHL is in now? You have
millionaire employees with egos to match being dealt with by billionaire
egos on the other side. The employee is an important part of the
product, he is the part that creates the identity. You also have an odd
cartel here that you are governing. One where your success comes at the
price of a partner's success yet you Are partners who the overall body
needs BOTH to be healthy for it to be healthy. Yet the end consumer
never understand this. They demand only success from the local "branch"
and you must satisfy this. It is a conflict of interest between the good
of the league (all clubs) versus the health of the individual bodies
each of whom play an active role in governing the whole.
If you brought in an exec from the outside world he would either storm
out of the meeting in an ego filed rage after 24 hours screaming "THEY
WON'T LISTEN". Or he would leave in a straight jacket after a year
babbling "they don't behave logically...it all makes no sense." Insiders
understand two things these guys don't. One you work for the OWNERS not
the other way around. IF you want to get anything done you need the
charisma of a JFK and patience of the Dali Lama. You can charm them but
you can NEVER force them. Even if you think that what they want ifs the
stupidest thing that you have ever heard! The only thing that you can do
is politic, use power when and where you HAVE to and are allowed to, and
hope for the best. Two, you are entering into a business that is not
illogical. But rather it has its own logic that has come from
experience. Big money has brought a new era but the same basic forces
are at work. Clubs must win to maximize interest and profit and they
will do anything they can to do so. It may involve harming another lodge
member, it may mean skirting but not breaking the rules or it may mean
taking a gamble that proves unwise. The decision points are different
from normal business. These are secondary holdings but as secondary
holding they are not only easier to gamble with but also easier to
drop...the consumer in this industry is unique, they subscribe to a
drama that is completely unscripted...the producer is a person who
invested largely for ego or PR...the product itself is in part the
labor. It is a complex dance that is hard to master not unlike high
ballet being tough for your average slam dancer to master. It is full of
contradictions and is in a transitional era. The outsider can find it
And the very fact that many want a person with a background in the game
is a unique feature too! The END USER actually is disturbed by the CEO
lacking it. What other business features this? Who screamed first about
Bettman's background? The FAN. Keep in mind what "fan" is short
for..."fanatic". What other product calls its end user "fanatics"? And
only a fanatic would care about the CEO being a member of the industry.
Why do they do that? It comes back to why they are "fanatics" they share
a devotion to a product that they like to perceive that the CEO shares.
The fact is Bettman actually broke a mold in sports. He was hired from
another sport to be commish of a league. Uberoth and Vincent were from
other sports backgrounds but not other leagues. And in the end perhaps
the biggest rap on Bettman is "he doesn't understand he is not one of
us...a hockey nut."
What hockey can do but hasn't is look at the successful leagues within
their own sport top find a commish, Never once in the modern era have
they brought in an AHL prez or the head of the CHL or any other top
league that ahs shown he can actually RUN a hockey league and do it well
over time! Maybe the next time around the answer to this issue is right
under their noses quite literally...guys who have handles every crisis
drill with grace, presided over successful leagues in the industry
itself, have done things right and know the league. They are more likely
to find a good commish that way than any other. Then again maybe the
exercise in the modern era is to NOT have a truly strong commish.
Perhaps the money is just too big for owners to want to allow a man too
much power...David Stern may be the last of a breed.
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