April 18, 2012
Mr. Gary Bettman
1185 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY 10036
Dear Mr. Bettman:
It’s time for you to resign. The disturbing increase in head-hunting thuggery in this year’s NHL playoffs, along with your feeble response and denial of a problem, is enough to demand that you immediately step down.
This year’s playoffs have been characterized by an epidemic of fights and cheap shots. This development comes at a time when the awareness of the dangers of concussions and brain trauma has never been higher.
Tuesday night, veteran fighter Raffi Torres of Phoenix leveled Chicago’s Marian Hossa with an ugly elbow. The brutal hit left many who were watching wondering if Hossa would be able to get up and walk again. This incident followed a glove-dropping fight between NHL stars – and well-known concussion victims – Sidney Crosby and Claude Giroux on Sunday afternoon.
The playoffs have become much more brutal than the regular season, with the average number of fights per game almost double the regular season rate. In addition, game misconduct penalties are way up in this year’s playoffs compared to the 2011 edition.
Despite trends like this, you continue to wonder why people see a problem. When asked about the playoff carnage to date after the Torres-Hossa incident, your response was typically of a things-are-fine nature.
“A lot of it is perception and misperception,” you said. “The game is physical, the game is emotional. These games are hard-fought. Having said that, I’d say player safety is monitored closely and being dealt with in an appropriate way.”
Will it take an on-ice death in the Stanley Cup Finals to change your perspective?
It’s clear that the sports world can no longer wait until you see the light. Back in February, we asked you to ban fighting and all blows to the head in the NHL (http://bit.ly/zFIABv). You chose to ignore us at that time. As a result, the safety of talented players continues to be jeopardized in NHL games.
The entire NHL culture needs to be changed when it comes to condoning blows to the brain.
Consider these quotes from coaches in your league:
“I thought it was great,” said Philadelphia Flyers Coach Peter Laviolette about the Crosby-Giroux fight. “A couple of the best players in the world dropping the gloves, going at it. In the end, that’s really playoff hockey, isn’t it?”
When asked about the violence in this year’s playoffs, Detroit Red Wings Coach Mike Babcock had this to say: “I think it’s a bunch of guys having a bunch of good times. I like watching it. Looks like good stuff to me.” (Looks like boxing without a license to us. See our letter to California attorney general Kamala Harris on this topic. http://bit.ly/HNJ2t6)
Undoubtedly, the stone-age mentality in the NHL exists well beyond your office. But as NHL commissioner, your lack of swift and strong action symbolically condones this type of thinking and behavior.
Mr. Bettman, you’re the leader of this league and your lack of leadership on this critical issue means you need to resign immediately.
It’s clear the NHL needs a strong commissioner to clean up this mess. It’s equally clear that you’re not the person to do it.
Founder, League of Fans
Sports Policy Director, League of Fans
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League of Fans is a sports reform project founded by Ralph Nader to fight for the higher principles of justice, fair play, equal opportunity and civil rights in sports; and to encourage safety and civic responsibility in sports industry and culture.
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
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