The Halcyon Nature of NHL Ownership

I don't usually post my take on non-Oilers news here, but this rather remarkable story from the Canadian Press made me change my mind:

The National Hockey League is threatening to kick out Madison Square Garden, the owners of the New York Rangers, as punishment for accusing the league of violating antitrust laws.

The NHL filed court papers Wednesday that included a draft letter from commissioner Gary Bettman. In its court filing, the NHL asked a judge to agree MSG has breached its contract by challenging league rules and that it can force out MSG.

Madison Square Garden sued the NHL in September, saying it violated antitrust laws by monopolizing control of team promotions. And a judge said in November the league seemed within its rights to take control of the team's website.

This stems back to a lawsuit MSG filed against the NHL, demanding control of their web content after the NHL forced individual teams to adhere to a league-wide format. It seems, however, to be more than that- an indicator, perhaps, of growing dissent against the leadership of Gary Bettman. Larry Brooks hinted as much back in September when the lawsuit was first launched.

With all the problems with NHL ownership that have been seen in the last few months (Nashville and Anaheim particularly) this seems like an asinine move by the league, and I can't imagine that other owners will take it lightly. I mean, it's one thing to spurn Jim Balsillie, who isn't part of the club yet, but when Bettman starts pushing around current owners in such a blatant manner, it's something other owners can't afford to take lightly.

This, to my mind, is what will eventually knock Bettman out of the commissioner's chair. The way the NHL has dealt with individual ownerships has been both incompetent and backward, and there's another disaster in the making going down in Tampa Bay right now.

It all makes me thankful that the Katz deal got approved yesterday. With stable, committed ownership, the Oilers are in the minority of NHL teams.

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