Friday, May 08, 2009

An open letter to Gary Bettman

Recently I located a website that posted Gary Bettman's nhl e-mail account. I've got no idea whether it's active, but the e-mail didn't bounce back. So I wrote to him as a concerned fan. Feel free to do the same at

Or you can find it here.

Dear Mr. Bettman:

I have been watching professional hockey for the better party of 25 years now and your work with the NHL leaves me with a couple of questions about franchises.

First off, how can you justify staying in a market like Phoenix, which clearly has not supported the Coyotes since they arrived?

I am by no means comparing hockey to dog food, but I am sure you are familiar with the following analogy. You can market dog food all you like, but can it be considered a success when you win awards for marketing but lose the battle because dogs won't eat the food?

It's not a victory when you have to spend $35 million or more in a season to subsidize the losses.

The Sun Belt strategy has not worked in many cases. Tampa Bay has won a Stanley Cup, yet the Lightning bleed cash. Florida has made a Stanley Cup final. Where are those fans? Disney World?

Atlanta has now had two chances to fail, with economic failure being it's only success.

And now Charles Wang regrets buying the Islanders. He wouldn't do it again, given a second chance.

Face it. Aside from Carolina and Dallas, where else has this strategy worked? Do these teams have to win Stanley Cups to be survive? Could you imagine the NBA doing the same for its newer franchises? Call David Stern and ask him. You should have his number somewhere.

Your steadfast defence of the NHL's presence in Arizona doesn't make sense. If your job as commissioner is to help build and protect the financial interest of the league's franchises, you failed miserably by demanding the Coyotes stay in Phoenix.

The corporations who have done business with the Coyotes, and therefore the NHL, deserve to be paid. The rest of your teams deserve to get their money back if there's a chance to do so. If that means allowing someone you clearly don't like into the league as an owner, so be it.

You didn't offer the same steadfast support for Winnipeg or Quebec City. You didn't even do that for the Montreal Canadiens when they were put up for sale. When asked about Montreal, you said simply let the best owner get the franchise. Does that mean you would support moving the most storied franchise the league has to Portland because it helps build hockey in Oregon?

Yet you offered absolute support for Pittsburgh (a decision I support), Nashville and now Phoenix.

You have willingly moved franchises before, on the premise they were going to greener pastures. Why not do the same now?

There are markets where an NHL team makes sense. Winnipeg built a new arena. If you let the Hurricanes play in Greensboro for a couple of seasons, surely a team could work in Hamilton while a more permanent solution can be found.

Perhaps the honourable way out is to offer to approve Mr. Balsille's offer, contingent on approving a transfer to Winnipeg, where there are no territorial conflicts with existing franchises. You were all right with Boston getting crowds of 15,000 before, so why not Winnipeg?

Then it gives you time to work out a deal with MLSE and the Sabres to put another franchise into a greatly under-served market.

If your solution to this crisis is to continue to do what hasn't worked for 13 years, you need to resign and allow someone else to try and resolve this issue.


Keith Borkowsky
Brandon, Man., Canada

"Good is not good when better is expected." — Vin Scully


Jordie Dwyer said...

WOW... coherent thoughts, plausible questions, logical'd think he NEVER worked for Sun Media....LOL

sager said...

Great stuff, KB.

As for Mr. Dwyer, I'm choosing to take that as veiled shot (kidding).

Jordie Dwyer said...

Hey... I happen to be one too (there are so few of us left anymore)....

Keith Borkowsky said...

I will say that I am a relatively content, and now vacationing, Brandon Sun employee. But I can still get cranky when it's required.


Keith Borkowsky said...

OK. That one was for the kids that like to use my front lawn as an expressway to their friend's place.

When there's a paved sidewalk that leads to where they want to go.

Dennis Prouse said...

Yeah, because Bettman really enjoys getting fan feedback, especially from Canadians. He's good that way.