Gary Bettman’s Dream

Rory Conacher found himself on a New York City street. How he got there he could not remember. The last thing he could remember was watching the Saturday night NHL double header hockey games on the CBC and then going to sleep. It was very frustrating. Even with new number one pick Auston Matthews the Leafs lost again to the hated Detroit Redwings and then the Los Angeles Kings routed the hometown Vancouver Canucks easily. NHL hockey in Canada sucked.
Now he found himself walking along a strange New York City street when he noticed a sign on one of the buildings: NHL Head Office. Curious, he went inside.
“Can I help you?” asked the secretary.
“I’m just looking around. I don’t know how I got here.”
“Well you just walked along 6th Avenue. Now what do you want?”
“Is this really the NHL head office?”
“Of course. Now do you want to see Mr. Bettman? Do you have an appointment?”
Rory was startled at the question. He stuttered, “I don’t have an appointment but I guess I’d like to meet him.”
“And you are?”
“I’m Rory. Rory Conacher.”
The secretary buzzed.
“Mr. Conacher to see you Mr. Bettman.”
She put down the telephone.
“Okay, he’ll see you. Just go in.”
He went past her and opened the door. There was NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman sitting behind his desk.
“Close the door, please. Now what can I do for you, Mr. Conacher?”
They shook hands.
“Please to meet you, sir. I’m from Toronto. I don’t know how I got here but I was just passing by and I saw the sign so I came in. This is like a dream come true.”
Gary Bettman laughed.
“This is where it all happens.”
“It’s better than what I saw on the tv this evening. The Leafs lost again as usual. We’ve had nothing but bad teams since the Ontario Teachers Union bought and sold the team. And then the Canucks got dumped. Hockey really sucks in Canada right now. We haven’t won the Stanley Cup for so long and last year not one single Canadian team made the playoffs-”
“I know. Since 1970. The problem is there is not enough Canadian teams in the league.”
“But you never put any expansion teams in Canada. You always pick cities that have no interest in hockey.”
“Well you got back the Winnipeg Jets didn’t you? And right now I’m working on the Quebec City situation.”
“But you turned down Quebec and took Las Vegas instead.”
“Well I’m not going to turn down half a billion dollars. And Bill Foley is so gung-ho about it all. And I wanted the NHL to be the first to find out if Las Vegas is a sports town. They built a beautiful new arena, you know.”
“But so did Quebec.”
“Let me tell you about Quebec. There is nothing wrong with Quebec City and its arena. I want them back in the NHL and so does almost every governor on the NHL Board. I offered them terms back in 2010 and I talked and worked with the Quebec City mayor and the Provincial Premier. But I can’t have that bidder from Quebecor, Mr. Peladeau. Not after what he said about Geoff. We can’t have owners who make racist remarks about our governors and maybe other members of our executive. It’s unacceptable.”
“I didn’t know that. What’s going on?”
“Well right now I’m trying to find an acceptable owner for a Quebec City team. Why do you think Mario Lemieux is selling his shares in the Pittsburgh Penguins and Patrick Roy quit the Colorado Avalanche? I’m trying to put together a new ownership group and they may be part of it. When all the players are in place, there will be an announcement. Quebec City is coming back to the NHL. It’s just a matter of time when all the appropriate people are ready.”
“That would be wonderful, sir. My parents used to tell me that Quebec-Montreal was the best rivalry in the NHL. I can hardly wait to see it for myself.”
“So it was and it was a shame to lose it. That’s why I want it back. But that’s not the only initiative we have in Canada.”
“What else?”
“Well how would you like to have a team in Hamilton?”
Rory looked puzzled.
“But you turned them down when they tried to get the Phoenix Coyotes and you said their arena was unacceptable.”
“I didn’t like doing it. It broke my heart to disappoint all those hopeful fans. It really did. No joke. But it’s not my policy Rory, it really isn’t. Canadian NHL owners just don’t want to share television and merchandising revenues. There should have been a Hamilton team long ago. But I’ve had talks with some potential owners and with the owners of Toronto and Buffalo and something is finally being worked out as far as compensation is concerned so if everything goes to plan, Hamilton will probably get a team within the next decade. As for the arena, I’ve talked to the City of Hamilton and they are going to spend the money to modernize it up to our current standards. An 18,500 seat arena is more than adequate.”
“That would be wonderful, sir. Toronto-Hamilton would be just like the CFL.”
“Well that’s just a start. I think the southern Ontario market is so good that they could support even a third team just like here in New York. One of London, Kitchener, Oshawa, or second Toronto. But that’s for the long term. We have to get Hamilton established first. I suppose we could also have second Montreal if they built another arena. They used to have the Maroons, you know. And out west there is Saskatoon. The old members of the Ice Edge group still talk about playing there. I like the idea too. But that’s a long term project within the next two decades.”
“That would be twelve Canadian teams. That would be wonderful.”
“It’s on the horizon. It’s part of the new NHL policy. After we admit Las Vegas, we’re going to focus on expanding to cities that really love hockey. 40 teams is our goal. The NHL in the future will look something like the current NFL. There will be two conferences, East and West, each with 4 divisions and each division will have 5 teams in them.”
“That’s going to be great, sir.”
“There will be all those Canadian cities, I told you about. And in the United States, there will be Seattle if they ever get their arena and owner act together. And Spokane too but like Saskatoon that’s a long term project. But it makes sense to put franchises into Milwaukee, Portland, and Hartford right now if they make a suitable bid. Canadians can’t complain about those American choices. All those cities love hockey.”
“I think they would be great choices.”
“I’m still waiting for Hartford to do something. I offered them the same terms as I did Quebec and Winnipeg. I’d like to see the Whalers back. Boston and Hartford were great rivals like Montreal and Quebec. We need that kind of spirit, especially in the playoffs.”
“I watched the playoffs all the way through. What do you think of Pittsburgh getting back on top?”
“It was good to see Crosby and Malkin back. But the whole playoffs could have been even better. Not all our best players who could have been playing played.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well it actually has to do with medical developments I’ve recently discovered. Players who were out could have played if we had considered alternative medicine.”
“I don’t understand.”
“Remember Pascal Dupuis of Pittsburgh and Steve Stamkos of Tampa bay? They both did not play because of blood clots. Dupuis even had to retire.”
“Yes.”
“It’s come to my attention recently that there is alternative medicine, that established medicine is trying to cover up and that official bodies like the FDA and Health Canada will not recognize that could have removed the blood clots without an operation. Stamkos would not have missed a single game and Dupuis would not have had to retire. The outcome of the Pittsburgh=Tampa Bay series could have been different. Medicine played too big a role in this year’s playoffs though most of the public and players don’t know it.”
“What’s going on?”
“There is something called a chelation remedy. It’s a process that’s been around since the 1950s that removes toxic metals from the body, especially from people with heart disease. Heart plaque is made of cholesterol and metals and I’m told this chelation remedy can remove it from the circulatory system without an operation. But established medicine refuses to acknowledge it. I’m told Linus Pauling was a big advocate of this kind of treatment. Anyway the stuff is being sold over the Internet and in private clinics around the world and it is said that it can clean out circulatory system blockages like blood clots within 24 hours. I want the NHL to have the best medicine possible and at cheap cost. So I’m ordering an investigation into the stuff. Heart disease played too big an indirect role in this year’s playoffs.”
“If Stamkos had not been out, maybe Tampa Bay would have beaten Pittsburgh.”
“Exactly. But that’s not the worst of it. Heart disease killed Gordie Howe. He had a series of stokes that killed him. I’m told that the chelation stuff could have removed the plaque in his brain. He would still be alive. His death put a damper on everything. It overshadowed the whole playoffs.”
“Gordie Howe would still be alive?”
“I don’t want that happening again. Our players and ex-players deserve the best kind of medicine no matter where it comes from. I’m having our medical experts check out this chelation stuff and report back to me.”
He paused.
“So you’re from Toronto. Are you looking forward to seeing the World Cup?”
“I’m glad to see it come back, sir. I’ll be watching it on tv for sure.”
Gary Bettman reached into his drawer and pulled out two tickets and offered them to Rory.
“Tickets to Canada versus the United States! Oh thank you sir!”
“My pleasure.”
“I’m looking forward to seeing the games. My family owns a copy of the Canada-USSR series on dvd. I’d like to see the World Cup really take off. But there’s not enough countries that participate.”
“I know. It’s been a problem for the last 40 years. That’s why I created team Europe and team North America. That’ll get us through for this time. But for 2020 we’ve got to get more countries and they’ve got to play at the same standard as the teams we’ve got in the current tournament. We can’t have joke scores like Canada 10 Norway 1 or Russia 12 Latvia 2.”
“I agree.”
“Denmark and Switzerland have improved but not enough. We’re going to get them over the bar first. I want to see them and Slovakia playing in 2020.”
“I’d like that too, sir.”
“So for the next four years, the NHL and the organizations of the seven top countries are really going to invest money and experience to get those B level countries up to the standard of play that Canada, the USA and the five other European countries play. That’s the main problem with international hockey right now. There will be no more embarrassing mismatches. There will be a real expansion in the quality of play. We’ll start with the wealthier countries like Switzerland, Denmark, Norway, France, Germany, Austria and Italy.”
“I’d love to see the World Cup expand with more teams that play really quality hockey.”
“After that we’ll get Latvia, Poland, Slovena, Kazakhstan, and Belarus up too. We’ll get them all up to our standard. I want to see a World Cup of at least 12, probably 16 teams.”
“So do I.”
“And I’ll tell you another thing. Every time we expand the NHL we get the usual diatribes that the product gets watered down. Well if we develop those countries, there will be more than enough quality players to stock all our projected 40 teams.”
“That’s a good idea sir.”
“It’s just the beginning for international hockey. After we get our 40 teams, I’d like to start a European NHL branch. Maybe even an Asian branch if China, Korea, and Japan improve. But what do you think of a European Conference of 12 plus teams that plays for the Stanley Cup each year? That would make it a real world championship.”
“That seems so far away. It would be fantastic.”
“It’s not that far away if we do our homework. Teams from Moscow to Paris. From Helsinki to Rome. The NFL talks vaguely about putting a team in London but we’ll beat them to it. The NHL will be a real world league. The World Cup every four years and teams from all around the world competing for the Stanley Cup each year.”
“I have a cousin in Europe who loves hockey. Wait till I tell him this.”
“You’ll be able to watch hockey all day long. In the morning and afternoon, you’ll be able to watch a game or two from Europe and then watch the North American games at their usual time. Maybe there will be games later from Japan and China.”
He glanced at his watch.
“Speaking of time, I’ve got appointments to make. But I’ve enjoyed discussing the future of hockey with you Rory. Drop in again.”
“Thank you, sir.”
Rory opened the door and then went down the stairs to the street exit. But when he opened the door everything changed. It all went dark and he found himself waking up in bed in his house in Toronto. He shook his head and wondered where he was. He tried to remember where he had been. He was in New York? He was at the NHL office? All those things that got discussed are going to happen? Are they?

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