The People's Voice rushes the net

Dan Wetzel
Yahoo! Sports

A lot of people who don't get hockey claim no one cares that the league has a work stoppage. I think these people include Gary Bettman, but we've already covered that.

Proof that hockey fans exist: I received approximately 1,000 emails reacting to last week's column on Bettman's failure as commissioner. We wish the owners, players and the commissioner cared as much about the sport as these fans.

We also have a little West Virginia football and a follow-up on Quentin Griffin's mouthpiece, too. As always, keep the letters coming, keep them brief and have a point. My comments appear in italics.

Now on to The People's Voice ...

GARY BETTMAN ("The Puck stops with Bettman" September 15, 2004)

A web site has been created,, in an attempt to gather a large collection of personal thoughts and opinions as to how the NHL strike affects [fans]. It will only possibly have any effect if it generates awareness, so I was hoping that maybe you could simply mention the web site in an article, or spread the link around to associates. I'm a simple 19-year-old NHL fan, just tryin' to help get this resolved.

Evan Shuster

I hope this helps.

As a lifelong hockey player, from high school to college to adult leagues, I have to agree with you that Bettman has ruined the NHL. It has become a watered-down and unwatchable version of its former self.

The excitement is gone and the rivalry the once existed between some teams is also gone. I really would like to see Bettman gone and a true hockey man in charge to bring back the game I loved.

Steven Farro

Why are you so biased against Bettman and the owners?

Yes, they have acted stupidly ... BUT, Goodenow and the players are the ones being greedy and ridiculous. The union does not care about the game or the fan – only the players' own pocket books.

Brian Wansleeben
Calgary, Alberta

I agree with your article on Gary Bettman and the ruination of NHL hockey. I am a Canadian hockey fan and player. I was saddened to see teams move from northern hockey markets to the southern markets and was mystified by league expansion.

I think that Mr. Bettman tried to expand hockey beyond its real market. I notice that he didn't try to put basketball in Alaska or Winnipeg or even Calgary. He knew basketball wouldn't (couldn't) work there. I wonder if he was that foolish not to have known that hockey wouldn't fly in Carolina.

Sterling MacNay
Owen Sound, Ontario

OK. So I started to read prepared to disagree with you. Just one more columnist-type with the knee-jerk anti-management slant. But you're right. As an old-time hockey fan, I was surely aware of the league's dilution of talent and diminishing stature. But I hadn't thought of it as Bettman's failure.

Your column gave me a new perspective on the league's woes. But let's not let greedy players off the hook either.

Don Ferguson

The players need to be wary of killing the golden goose. Clearly salaries are overheated. Yes management signed off on them, but if this is to be any kind of partnership the players have to make significant movement toward the center. This does not absolve Bettman, whom I consider a different issue.

Hallelujah. Finally, someone perceptive enough to realize this NHL mess begins and ends with Gary Bettman. I don't know whom I feel less sorry for, the millionaire players or multi-millionaire owners, but the fact is they're each conducting themselves no better than my 4- and 7-year-old daughters.

Bettman's job is to ensure there's a game and you're right, he's failed miserably. I've been an addict of the sport for nearly 30 years, and this is the most obnoxious situation I've seen. Has he tried to do ANYTHING to resolve this other than threaten the players union? The game needs someone with an attachment, who cares whether there will be games, not whether the owners have enough money in their pockets.

Stewart Milch
Brooklyn, N.Y.

The simple move to rename the conferences and divisions was a clear indicator of Bettman's complete misunderstanding of the fan base. Ten years ago, hockey was the last innocent sport – uncorrupted by money, and steeped in tradition and pride. The players played because it was their passion, not because it was their paycheck.

Now the NHL is on its way to looking more like the NBA, where the sport is barely played and the personalities so contemptuous that I cannot bear to watch. After the great World Cup, during which level of play that is attainable with undiluted talent was clear to see, I am left feeling hollow with the prospect of lockout and angry to even go back to the bland level of play sure to be provided at its conclusion.

Robert Burnham

The "drunken sailors" quote sums up how I feel about the owners' complaints about salary being 75 percent of costs. Who signed all those contracts?

Mark Novak

Thank you so much for saying exactly what I have been trying to tell anyone who will listen. You have a much clearer understanding of the facts and a better way to put it, but the impact is the same: Gary Bettman will forever be known as the man who destroyed hockey. What I want to know is, how do the owners, a seemingly bright group of millionaires, allow this to happen? Why have they not stood up and said, "No more"?

Phil Williams

Bettman must be masterful in front of small groups. He has crushed the owners' investments but they still believe in him. I don't get it.

You are completely correct about this issue. I am glad to see that someone finally had the nerve to put it out in the open and really speak the truth. The NHL needs to get that guy out of there; he is only doing the NHL harm. Your article was very good! My question for you is, who would you have be the NHL commissioner?

Molly Andersen

My heart likes the oft-suggested Wayne Gretzky or maybe Mario Lemieux. But I also think there has to be someone out there with a strong business background who also appreciates hockey, its unique culture and its rich history.

You hit this right on the head! You can't water down the NHL talent pool, expand into the NASCAR/Jimmy Houston's Outdoors Bass Fishing DEEP South and NOT expect to alienate the distinguished fans in the true hockey lands up north.

In my opinion, the NHL would be better off in the hands of Don Cherry!

Tim D. King
Little Rock, Ark.

I was just glad to hear Cherry will be back for another season on the Canadian Broadcast Company. If there is a season.

Sure, maybe Bettman is one of the problems with the NHL lockout, but you've neglected to look at the GREEDY NHL players that want more money to have a career doing something they love.

Andrew Moncek
Winnipeg, Manitoba

Do you notice a striking resemblance between Bettman and "Sesame Street"'s The Count? They not only look alike, all they care about is numbers.

Andrew D. Piera
Livingston, N.J.

QUENTIN GRIFFIN ("The Broncos' new workhorse" September 13, 2004)

As a Longhorn fan, I saw what Quentin Griffin did to Texas. Running from the spread offense and receiving the handoff times at a dead standstill seven yards behind the line of scrimmage, this guy proceeded to make every single Longhorn on the field look silly time and time again.

The Horns were not out of position; they just couldn't tackle the guy. I saw this for three straight years in the Cotton Bowl. I'm surprised it took this long for the NFL to realize his talent.

Brady Whatley

Regarding another reader's comment that Quentin Griffin only put in his mouthpiece when he was getting the football ... although it was true for this game, I doubt it will become a key for opponents. If a high school coach such as myself can figure it out, Mike Shanahan will have also figured it out and make Q.G. put his mouthpiece in all the time. I especially liked how QG didn't celebrate after he scored.

Eddie Comerford
San Francisco

As background, a reader last week realized that Griffin put his mouth guard in only when he was getting the ball. Maybe that tell was a reason he struggled against Jacksonville.