Bettman: Winnipeg’s most hated

KEVIN ENGSTROM, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:58 AM ET

It is a vast understatement that Gary Bettman has few friends in Winnipeg.

Folks in these parts will always view the NHL commissioner, with some legitimacy, as the guy who ripped our beloved hockey franchise away from the city and placed it in the Arizona desert. The guy could come up with the cure for cancer tomorrow and he’d still most assuredly remain near the top of the list of the most hated men in this city’s history for his grievous offence 14 years ago.

You’d think after all these years, Bettman would realize the emotional trauma he caused the city when the Jets left Winnipeg for, of all places, Phoenix.

As we learned this past week, entertaining such a thought about the commish was foolish.

Instead, Bettman twisted the knife, using our intense desire to win back a big-league franchise as a pawn in an effort to salvage his spectacular failure of an experiment in Arizona, then for an encore denied ever doing so.

For a week, the commish stayed quiet as rumours conveniently leaked out a provisional deal to return to Winnipeg had been agreed to in the event politicians down south voted against covering the franchise’s losses next season. With two different potential ownership groups promising to keep the team in Glendale seemingly out of the picture, expectations quickly heightened amongst local puck fans that their beloved franchise was coming home.

At any time, Bettman could have spoken up and definitively dismissed the rumours.

He could have said a number of things to send local puck fans back to reality.

Instead, he chose not to say a word, presumably because he wanted to make members of Glendale’s city council believe they needed to guarantee the Zombie Jets’ losses or risk losing them back to the city from which they came.

He only spoke up once he had gotten what he wanted, at which point he pooh-poohed Winnipeg’s future NHL chances, telling a national television audience the “hysteria” out of our city had been misguided — thanks for that, by the way — while leaving out the part he could have corrected those expectations quickly if he chose to.

If you really want to talk about what’s misguided, Gary, let’s talk about your continued shabby treatment of a hockey market starved for big-league action, playing up Winnipeg’s potential as an NHL market the past few years only to later belittle the city.

Or let’s chat about your zeal for keeping a franchise in a city where it has lost millions of dollars every single year for the past 14 years.

Actually, that’s not misguided — that’s insane.

A guy on the radio the other day referred to you as a smarmy little toad. Pretty sure most Winnipeggers would agree the guy went easy on you.


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