Hockey fans know that Gary Bettman is a straight up idiot, but some bad hockey reporters seem to mistakenly think that Bettman is a good commissioner based on one singular metric: Revenue.
Let me tell you something, Gary Bettman is a scumbag lawyer that squeezes rocks until nickels come out. That is his gift.
David Stern loved the NBA and marketed the hell out of it. His philosophy was if you grow the sport of basketball, you grow the NBA. That is why he's the best sports commissioner of the modern era by a country mile. Was he perfect? No, few people are, but his singular love for the sport of basketball propelled it to the status it now enjoys today, the public's second favorite sport in America.
But because this is America, let's review Stern, by the numbers.
NBA Revenue in 1984: $165 Million
NBA Revenue today: $8 Billion+
NBA Franchise Worth in 1984: $17 Million
NBA Franchise Worth today: $1.9 Billion
Stern knew the importance of the Olympics, Bettman poo-pooed the Olympics.
Stern put the NBA on in China for free (originally), Bettman yanked the NHL from ESPN to put them on Versus.
Stern never cancelled an NBA Championship, Bettman cancelled the 2005 Stanley Cup.
Stern was beloved by the players, Bettman "has helped to usher in the era of the sports commissioner who strictly works for the owners."
Stern made players like Shaq, Kobe, and Jordan household names. The last hockey player who was a household name in hockey? I would argue Gretzky, who coincidentally played in his last Stanley Cup series the year that Bettman took office.
Speaking of which:
NHL Revenue in 1993: $732 Million
NHL Revenue today: $4.75 Billion+
NHL Franchise Worth in 1993: $45 Million
NHL Franchise Worth today: $670 Million
What was Bettman better at than Stern? Cancelling games.
Bettman was hired 20 years ago Wednesday. Since his first full season as the commissioner in 1993-94, 2,224 regular-season N.H.L. games have been canceled because of lockouts in 1994-95, 2004-5 and 2012. That is 9.7 percent of the 22,882 N.H.L. games scheduled from October 1993 through Dec. 30, including the Winter Classic on Jan. 1. No other major league had a similar rate of cancellation over the same period. - NY Times (2012)
What people fail to point out is that unless you're the Arena League, all sports franchises have gone up in value.
Average NFL Team: $2.86 Billion
Average NBA Team: $1.9 Billion
Average MLB Team: $1.78 Billion
Average NHL Team: $670 Million
Average MLS Team: $313 Million
MLS' inaugural season was 1996.
Using some advanced salary analytics, this is how much the average athlete makes PER MINUTE in their respective sports.
EPL: $292 (English Premier League)
David Stern believed in his sport and his athletes and they grew the game together.
Gary Bettman managed the NHL like a business asset and profited in a favorable sports business landscape.