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The Dave McGraw Interview: NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman

The Dave McGraw Interview: NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman
Dave, with skates in tow just in case he's needed as a replacement player, meets with Mr. Bettman for their exclusive interview.

After a lengthy hiatus at some of El Salvador's finest liver transplant facilities this summer, Dave McGraw, a veritable man of the people, is back, with his inquisitive guns a-blazin.

How will our nation cope with no NHL hockey this winter? With the great unwashed agitated about the NHL lockout, he decided to go straight to the source for some answers. He flew to NHL Headquarters in New York City earlier this week for an exclusive, one-on-one interview with Gary Bettman, Commissioner of the National Hockey League. Maybe, just maybe, he'd be able to get some inkling as towhen the dispute that has shelved our national obsession might come to an end. And if not, at least he could get loaded.

DAVE McGRAW: Mr. Bettman, it's truly an honour to be in your humble presence.

GARY BETTMAN: I have a problem with your usage of the word 'honour.' Could you please use the American spelling?

DM: But, how do you know how I spelled it-we're, verbally...right now...

GB: Oh, I know. I know all.

DM: All right then, Gary. Here's the first question, you little fucking twerp.

GB: That's better.

DM: Mr. Bettman, I've reviewed the NHL's just-expired Collective Bargaining Agreement, and it is fucking boring. Do you think you can make the new one a little more punchy? Maybe throw in some pictures...a centerfold?

GB: The only thing standing in the way is the Players' Association.

DM: Boy, if I had a dollar for every time I've heard you say that - I'd have about six dollars. But Mr. Bettman, it has to be asked: as each side digs their heels in to, relations between management and the players' union appear to be getting more and more sour. The players refuse to accept a salary cap, youse guys are insisting upon're further apart than...two points that are really far apart from one another. So, how are you gonna resolve this big old mess of a situation when y'all hate each other more than Kerry and Bush?

GB: Oh, perhaps the players' union is bitter with myself and the owners, but there's no acrimony on our part. None whatsoever.

DM: But in a news release issued last week by the NHL, you claimed that the Players' Association was responsible for the genocide in Darfur and the successful music career of Hillary Duff.

GB: Well, if you look at the facts, you'll see that that cannot be ruled out.

"Then, when the linesman's holdin' him back, ya plow him one real good." Dave shows the commissioner some of his pugilistic techniques from his days as an enforcer in the Quebec Senior League.

DM: Why do you think the Canadian public and the three people in the US who actually give a shit about the NHL seem to have overwhelmingly sided with you and the owners in this dispute, as opposed to the players?

GB: Clearly because I'm so popular. The people love me.

DM: Right. As I speak with you today Gary, on the day the 2004-05 season was to have officially started, things aren't looking good. Then there's the matter of hockey. With more and more fans convinced the entire season will be wiped out entirely, what do you say to Canadians devastated about the fact that they will not be able to watch Phoenix and Columbus play each other this season?

GB: Look, I bleed for hockey. Nobody will miss the game more than me. Every night before I go to bed, I cry myself to sleep because of all of the exciting NHL hockey that I am missing right now. The possibility that I will not be able to see a single opening kickoff for the entire 2004-05 NHL season will truly break my heart. The possibility that I won't be able to present the World Series...thingy to the winning team in August at the conclusion of the causes me untold amounts of agony.

DM: There there. Have a Kleenex.

GB: (sniffing audibly) Thank you.

DM: Uh, please...please stop touching me.

GB: I'm sorry. I just love basketball so much. I get very passionate.

DM: Don't you mean hockey?

GB: Yes, yes. I love it too. Even more.

DM: Mr. Bettman, have you been able to gauge what kind of an impact the lockout is having on fans?

GB: If I may set the record straight, it is inaccurate to refer to the current dispute as a 'lockout.' It is a 'player access restriction'...

DM:....I can't remember the question I asked you....

GB:...Whatever it was, I'm glad you asked me. Every season ticket holder for the Carolina Hurricanes has written me, expressing their concern about the present situation the league finds itself in. Here. Look. (The Commissioner hands Dave a sheet of paper.)

DM: This is just one letter.

GB: Yes. Mr. and Mrs. Novalchuk from that city...wherever Carolina plays, are devastated about the fact that they won't be able to see any "Exciting NHL hockey" this season. Trademark.

DM: Wow...the lockout really is having an impact. Do you worry that the game will struggle if and when the labour dispute is resolved, especially in uh, how shall I say, non-traditional markets such as Carolina?

GB: I am concerned, but our loyal fans will come back around when they remember all of the excitement of today's NHL. The clutching, the grabbing, the total disregard for the enforcement of any obstruction rules, the stultifying commitment to defence-first, dump and chase hockey, the utter lack of creativity, the goalies whose bloated equipment make them look like some form of modified Michelin Man...

(There then followed seven minutes of silence as Mr. Bettman stared at the wall whimpering. He then continued):

Sorry, I think someone slipped some truth serum in my water. Anyway, like I was saying, everyone knows that Shreveport (home of the NHL's expansion Shreveport Seal Clubbers) is a hockey hotbed. I am still convinced that the game is going to take off there. Give it time. Professional hockey and Louisiana go together like sun bathing and Nunavut.

DM: Speaking of which, if so many teams have been losing money for so long, as you and the owners insist, then why did the league decide to expand to 72 teams in the early to mid 90's?

GB: Hey, we did not go into this whole expansion thing half-cocked. Our research indicated that there was a HUGE demand for NHL hockey in every city where there is presently a NHL franchise. Everybody loves hockey. Everybody loves hockey. When I take my spaceship to Mars, the little Martian children even tell me how much they love NHL hockey. They come up to me and beg me to let them have a NHL franchise. But I have to tell them no, because flying all of those NHL teams to Mars would be very expensive. I've looked into it.

DM: Whoa. You took some of the brown acid, didn't you?

GB: Hockey has a very deep history in the Southeastern United States. A lot of people don't know this, but hockey was actually invented in Nashville.

DM: Really?

GB: Yes. It's true. There's a painting of it and everything.

DM: I want to talk about TV ratings for the game in the US.

GB: (Audible groan)

DM: In the United States, ratings are actually better now for the NHL, during the lockout, or the...player access restriction, than they were for last year's playoffs. European dwarf tossing consistently gets better ratings than NHL hockey. The NHL actually had to pay NBC $135 million dollars to get them to show your games. Why? And why do we care so much about this in Canada?

GB: Slowly but steadily, we are building the fan base for our American TV audiences -we're only 3 ratings points behind semi-pro lawn darts. We are confident that people will come around to our product. The game is exciting. As long as I keep repeating it, it's the truth. Everything is just fine. The game is exciting. Freedom is slavery. War is peace. Ignorance is Strength. NHL hockey is doubleplusgood.

After a long hard day's interviewin', Dave unwinds on Gary's spaceship.

DM: Finally Mr. Bettman, if I could be blunt: You and the owners you're representing created the economic mess that has led to the lockout-why should we trust you to get the league out of it?

GB: OK, look. Have I ruined hockey? Yes, yes I have. I admit it. I have ruined hockey, all right? I'm man enough to fess up. But at least give me a chance to fix what I've ruined.

DM: Fair enough. Thanks Gary.

GB: No problem. You know, you're welcome to take a ride with me in my spaceship whenever you want. There are all kinds of interesting colours of sky that you can see.

DM: Cool. Can you drop me off in Smiths Falls?

GB: Isn't there a NHL team there? I should probably go visit.

Next week: Dave shouts abuse at Bob Goodenow, head of the National Hockey League Players' Association

Posted on October 16th, 2004



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