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The arrogant NHL: tone-deaf and alienating its fans – for what?

The NHL got itself into a dumb fight over the all-star game, and then Gary Bettman kicked up a storm in Calgary. The league needs to reconsider its commitment to fans

It’s become an annual tradition every spring that, when NHL commissioner Gary Bettman steps on the ice to present the Stanley Cup-winning team with its prize hardware, those fans present in the arena let fly an immense chorus of boos. It persists partly because of its longevity – it’s done because it’s always been done. This year, however, when that time comes, we might remember this past week as reason other than tradition to air grievances. For, the NHL has managed in a matter of days, thanks purely to its own arrogance, to throw itself into unnecessary scandal and alienate its fan base.

The first issue was weeks in the making. Back in December, the NHL once again launched its online fan vote option for the January 31 all-star game in Nashville. Within 72 hours, John Scott, an enforcer from the Arizona Coyotes, led the voting tally. Scott’s role is a dying one in what many term the “new” NHL, one that has altered its rules to emphasize speed, skill, and goal-scoring, thereby naturally weeding out the usually slower, less skilled guys who in past have been on the ice to physically stick up for the star players. In the last eight seasons, Scott has scored five goals, but racked up 521 penalty minutes. Not really all-star material.

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