Why Bettman is Terrible At His Job – Bringing The Hate Part III

Spurred on by a kick-a$$ movie poster by Josh Howard, this is part two of a four part series showcasing our feelings on Bettman and the NHL.  

By Chris:

Gary Bettman.  So much to say about the man.  Is he great at his job?  Many argue yes.  The game has grown and he keeps the owners happy.  He won the first lockout and he’ll probably win this one again.  It’s not his job to be liked by the fans they argue.  As long as the owners are happy, that’s all that matters. 

But I have a slightly different opinion.  He’s not just the ringmaster of the owners, you should think of him as the CEO of the NHL and the owners are each a significant shareholder.  Not a perfect analogy, I agree, but I think it is close.   He’s there to make the shareholders more money – that’s it. 

Looking at it like this, I think is where Gary fails flat on his face.   One second of listening to him speak and you know the man’s an attorney. Not just any attorney, the kind that has been born and bred to be a bloodsucker since the day he was born.  And here’s the problem with that – he runs the league like an attorney, not the way a CEO of the league should. 

Hit the jump for more on why Gary is just terrible

Great CEO’s are ideas guys who can see the big picture amidst many minor issues that may arise.  Long term is what matters and they realize that you don’t have to win every battle to win the war.   Their job is to make sure the car stays on course despite any bumps they might encounter along the way. 

Attorneys, on the other hand, are trained to see black and white.  Sure, it might make more sense to the client to settle an issue that arises that they likely have a winning argument, but most law firms don’t see it like that.  They see each case as a short term, winning or losing case.  Outside attorneys don’t get to deal with the everyday business operations of their client and how they fit into the whole scheme of things.   If you have a winning case, you damn well should win that case in court is the thought.  And if you are on the losing side, you do whatever you can to make it seem like you have a winning case to the outside world, even if it is obvious you are full of it.   

And that’s the problem.  Gary often operates like an attorney, not a CEO.  He does have a decent plan to grow the league as shown by the growth of the game itself, but he can’t help himself and fight every battle he’s faced with along the way.  What he sees today is an issue that he believes he has a winning argument for:  the NHLPA gets a significantly higher percentage of the revenues than other major sports and thus they should have their share cut.  Logically, it does make sense in this limited view and thus he is ready to go to war again.   

But Gary the attorney, can’t look at this like a CEO would.  Nor can he look at this lockout like his customers, the fans, because he isn’t one.  His attorney blinders only allow him to see the black and white view of the situation.  He doesn’t realize that while this might reduce wage expense, another lockout is going to kill the NHL’s momentum and steer it right off the long term path it is on.  With the cancelation of the October games, the car is now veering off the road.  It’s not too late to get it back on track, but there’s a tree coming up ahead quick.  A good CEO, one like Roger Goodell, would realize that and fight this battle farther down the road.  But the attorney who’s running the league is ready to halt everything to be right, which includes the growth of the league.  And while he might be a great attorney, that’s simply bad business.

(Full disclosure – this is coming from an attorney/former CPA/always stupid goalie.)

Click here for part one with Drew, Josh and Jordan.   Here for part two with Twig.  Sully's post is upcoming!