In previous columns, I have, to the angst of many, defended and supported the most hated man in hockey, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman.
I get it, you hate him and boo him because he oversaw the cancellation of a season. Never mind that he singlehandedly saved the Arizona Coyotes from becoming the Kansas City Whatevers. Never mind that he took the courageous step to shut down a season in order to save the NHL from financial ruin. Never mind that he worked to get every single postseason game on national television. In your eyes, he’s still a bum.
Now, I have an issue with him.
Saturday night in Tampa, Bettman announced the 2019 NHL All-Star Game will be played in San Jose.
Wait….aren’t we owed an All-Star Game?
The NHL cancelled the 2006 game so the league could send its players to Turin, Italy for the Winter Olympics. The year prior, the game was canceled due to the shutdown of the season. That game was to be played in Atlanta.
Of course, Atlanta is no longer in the NHL. The Thrashers moved in 2011 to Winnipeg, marking the second time an NHL team failed there.
So why hasn’t Commissioner Bettman done the right thing (which he does most of the time), and given back an All-Star Game to a franchise that desperately needs one? San Jose is doing just fine. It doesn’t need an All Star Game.
If the argument is the Coyotes haven’t done much to earn the game, or the league is holding the game hostage until a new arena is built, let’s ask a pertinent question: What about Coyote fans?
Is there a fan base in any of the four major professional sports leagues that has had to endure more over the past 10 years than fans of the Arizona Coyotes? Sorry, Cleveland Browns fans. No, Oakland Athletics fans. No way, L.A. Cilppers fans. All of you, at one time or another, have had success in sizeable doses. And Winnipeg? Yes, the Coyotes used to play in your city and left. You got a team back. You think that’ll happen here if the Coyotes become the Portland Fill In The Blanks?
Coyote fans have endured: Jeremy Roenick’s empty promises (“I’m going to be the next Charles Barkley”), Wayne Gretzky’s attempt at ownership and coaching, Steve Ellman’s claim of “Jerry Colangelo is my role model”, and the almost constant dialogue from sports anchors and talk show hosts that their energy would be better used dreaming up names for the franchise when it moves and becomes the Seattle This Town Doesn’t Have Coyotes. All the while, these same loyal, dedicated fans have plunked their money down each year for season tickets, uncertain if their team would stay, but virtually certain they could make vacation plans for late April.
What about Coyote employees? Shouldn’t Commissioner Bettman reward THEM for their loyalty? How would YOU like to go to a party, and when someone asks what you do for a living, say “I work for the Arizona Coyotes”? The people who work for the Coyotes have an even greater burden, not knowing where their employers’ long-term future will be, and whether or not they can maintain a job if the team decides it’s time to become the Houston Something To Do With Space Or Oils.
While we’re on the subject, search Rick Tocchet on Twitter and see how many people, media and fans, think Tocchet should have been the FORMER Head Coach of the Coyotes back in December. Anyone who thinks Tocchet was supposed to produce a Stanley Cup contender in his first year probably also thinks Tocchet ought to be up in the stands healing the sick and turning water in Molson’s during intermission.
No one deserves something to feel good about more than Arizona Coyote fans. Gary Bettman should have it given it to them last weekend. If he’s holding an All-Star Game until the City of Phoenix or Maricopa County, or the State of Arizona builds a new arena for Andrew Barroway, he’s turning his nose up at the people who occupy the seats in the building Barroway’s team plays in now. They’re the ones he ought to be thinking about.
Then again, maybe he’s thinking about Atlanta, and giving them back an All-Star game when the Coyotes move there and become the Atlanta Third Time’s A Charms.