Every year – but especially when a road team wins – the Stanley Cup handout ceremony is a hilariously awkward moment. For the winning team’s captain, it’s the height of exhilaration, whether that player is a fresh-faced (but wacky side-burned) youngster such as Jonathan Toews or a gray-bearded veteran like Ray Bourque. Yet, every time, you know that Gary Bettman will be there … and there will also be a merciless onslaught of boos.
Apparently, I’m not the only person who feels this way, but I feel like the league should consider having someone who isn’t such a polarizing figure hand out the Cup. Here’s a take from Adam Proteau of the Hockey News.
I’ve been a fervent advocate for a new presentation plan for the past few years not just because Bettman is a mortal lock to be booed – like a Wall St. financial regulator – each and every time he awards the Cup.
Indeed, Bettman’s predecessors were jeered to high heaven when they had the job. And unless the league wises up and makes Hello Kitty its representative of team owners, Bettman’s eventual replacement will be sonically abused with an equal amount (OK, maybe not an equal amount) of gusto.
However, when you consider other options that exist for handing over the Cup – having the captain of the Cup-winning team from the previous season do it, or giving the task to an NHL Hall of Famer – the current routine can only be seen as a ponderous paean to a power broker’s ego.
Just picture this alternative:
You’re a long-time Chicago Blackhawks die-hard. Perhaps you’re old enough to remember the highs and lows your team experienced since the last time they won a Cup in 1961. Well, Patrick Kane scores that odd game-winning goal and after the chaos dies down ever so slightly … Stan Mikita and Bobby Hull walk out with the Cup to congratulate Jonathan Toews.
(The mere concept of Mario Lemieux handing the Cup to Sidney Crosby would have caused my brain to short circuit last year.)
Over the years, I’ve slowly come to realize that Bettman is often a scapegoat for problems that would probably exist with a different commissioner. He has his flaws, for sure, but his Darth Vader reputation is at least a bit unfair.
Still, there’s no doubt that hockey fans have an almost Pavlovian urge to boo when they see Bettman, So why slightly tarnish a ceremony in which the most gorgeous trophy in professional sports is handed out? Bettman can still speak on behalf of the league in big interviews and important moments, but maybe he should step aside during a moment of such unbridled fan passion.
It probably won’t ever change, but it sure would make things a little more comfortable for … everyone involved, really.