"As long as elite women hockey players have professional opportunities, it is not an environment we are prepared to wade into in any formal way," NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly told ESPN when the CWHL folded, leaving only one league. "We have always supported professional women's hockey, and we plan to continue to do so. That doesn't mean we need to form or directly subsidize an existing professional league." - ESPN (The NHL previously gave $50,000 annual contributions to each league. When the CWHL folded, the NHL upped its contribution to the NWHL to $100,000.)
I'm going to be 100% honest with you. Somehow I'm familiar with the WNBA, despite not being a fan of basketball. Yet despite being a HUGE fan of hockey, until today I wasn't familiar with the CWHL or the NWHL. And that sums up the question I've had to answer for 25 years now.
Why does Gary Bettman Suck?
Gary Bettman is the dopey puppet of the NHL owners. I am thoroughly convinced that he would rather wade through old financial statements than watch an NHL game. Even worse, I don't think Gary Bettman would watch an AHL game, college hockey game, or NWHL game, today*, if you paid him. I know that Bettman is the Commissioner of the NHL, but part of his bigger picture job description is growing the sport of hockey.
According to Gallop, people were asked the simple sports question: Are you a fan of ___________.
24% of respondents answered "Yes" to professional hockey in 2001.
Nearly 20 years later the percentages were identical.
Your 3 options for a response were yes, somewhat, or no.
You were given the question to answer about multiple sports.
I'll take that quiz right now.
Fred, are you a fan of:
Pro Baseball - Somewhat.
Pro Football - Yes.
Pro Basketball - No.
Pro Ice Hockey - Yes.
College Football - Yes.
College Basketball - Absolutely Not.
Auto Racing - No.
Olympic Sports - Yes.
Professional Soccer - Yes.
Professional Golf - No. (Golf is not a sport. It is a rec activity. Being a pro golfer is the same as being a pro jarts player, except for better pay.)
Professional Tennis - Eh, the very low end of Somewhat.
Figure Skating - No.
"Professional" Wrestling - No.
Now again, according to Gallop, the opposite end of the spectrum is "No." 72% of Americans gave the simple answer of no to Professional Hockey. The second least popular sport in America by that standard. (Only wrestling was less popular.)
What has Gary Bettman done to grow the sport? Nothing. Any growth has been DESPITE HIM....
Editor's Note: Let's stop right there. Fred once wrote an article called The Man Who Killed Hockey in North America about Gary Bettman. Let's try to focus. Take a breath and take a short pause. Why specifically does Gary Bettman suck in relation to the NWHL? And keep it short.
Mike Bass, the NBA's executive vice president of communications, said, without addressing specifics, “The NBA has been fully supportive of the WNBA with intellectual and financial capital, sponsor and media partner relationships, and shared resources throughout the league’s existence.” - Forbes
When researching how much money, dollars and cents, the NBA contributes to the WNBA, I was unable to come up with a reliable, citable number, but I speculate that the number is in the millions.
The NWHL number is $100,000, as cited in the first paragraph of this article from ESPN. There are 31 NHL teams, simple division, 100,000 divided by 31 = $3225.81 per team. Gary Bettman convinced the owners to spend the equivalent of 30 hockey sticks, per team, on Women's Pro Hockey.
If that isn't an indictment on his vision for hockey vs. David Stern's vision for basketball, nothing is.
*Yes, Gary Bettman watched Cornell hockey as a teenager. In that same interview he also said when he was a kid, the only thing he wanted to do when he grew up was to be a lawyer.