Gary Bettman, whom fans like to hate, does not intend to bow out anytime soon as commissioner of the National Hockey League (NHL), even though he has been at the head of the circuit for almost 30 years.
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The Stanley Cup playoffs are a very busy time for the 69-year-old, who travels a lot between the league's various amphitheatres. On Tuesday, on the New York Post's "Merchant and Ourand" podcast, Bettman admitted he couldn't do this job forever, but the fire still burned inside.
“The first night I was in Carolina. The second morning, I was in Montreal for Guy Lafleur's funeral. That night I was in Calgary. The next night I was in Edmonton, the next in South Florida, and the next night in Tampa. Even when I was in my twenties, it would have been a big move,” said the American, who was appointed to his post on February 1, 1993.
The three lockouts of 1994-1995, 2004-2005 and 2012-2013 have so far marked Bettman's career. This contributed to the discontent of supporters against him. He also likes to recall that the NHL has reached a wider audience in recent decades, particularly by bringing the sport to the southern United States.
"It's a big adventure and I don't think you can identify things that we did spectacularly well or spectacularly badly. I believe that gradually, we had more and more visibility and our game became more vibrant,” he confessed.
Health and support
Of course, two weeks away from turning 70, Bettman knows that time is running out, but as long as he has the energy, he will stay in the saddle. He did not want to comment on the precise moment when he will no longer be commissioner, but this will depend on several aspects.
“Obviously as you get older you don't want to get tired so you have to stay healthy. I think I'm in good shape, I feel good. It also takes energy, desire and passion [...] and none of that has diminished, he said. If I wake up in the morning and I'm not happy with what I'm doing and what's coming for me that day, I shouldn't do it anymore."
“I [also] need the agreement of the leaders, which I have had continuously for three decades, and I am grateful to them. Growing the game cannot happen without that support,” added Bettman, who was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2018.
Formerly in the offices of the NBA for 10 years, the native of Queens, New York, has since 2021 been the active commissioner with the most experience in major North American sports.