On February 1st in 1993, former NBA senior vice-president and general counsel Gary Bettman was appointed Commissioner of the NHL. As clever as he is unpopular, Bettman has brought tremendous change to the game introducing and alienating fans alike.
During his 20 year tenure, Bettman has presided over the:
- elimination of traditionally named divisions (Adams, Patrick, Norris, Smythe) and conferences (Clarence Campbell, Prince of Wales) in favor of vaguely geographically identifiable divisions (Northeast, Atlantic, Central, Pacific) and conferences (Western, Eastern)(1993);
- expansion of six teams - Anaheim Ducks (1993), Florida Panthers (1993), Nashville Predators (1998), Atlanta Thrashers (1999), Minnesota Wild (2000), Columbus Blue Jackets (2000);
- relocation of five teams - Minnesota North Stars to Dallas (1993), Quebec Nordiques to Denver (1995), Winnipeg Jets to Phoenix (1996), Hartford Whalers to Raleigh (1997), Atlanta Thrashers to Winnipeg;
- introduction of NHL players in Winter Olympic Games (1995);
- introduction of regular season games overseas (1997);
- addition of two divisions - Southeast, Northwest (1998);
- massive team realignment extinguishing historic divisional rivalries (1993-2000);
- overhaul of the playoff system mandating that teams play out of their conference rather than their division (1993);
- awarding of each division winner with one of the top three spots in the conference for playoff match-up purposes regardless of where their points would otherwise place them in the standings (1998);
- awarding of one point to teams losing in sudden death overtime thereby extending differing point values to games depending on their duration (2pts for regulation games, 3pts for overtime games)(1999);
- introduction of regular season outdoor games in the form of the Heritage Classic (2003) and Winter Classic (2008);
- introduction of a salary cap tied to league revenues (2005);
- introduction of a shootout to resolve games tied at the end of overtime guaranteeing 2pts for a regulation game and 3pts for an overtime game (2005);
- banishment of the lion's share of nationally televised games to the Versus network (presently known as the NBC Sports Network) (2005);
- drastic reduction of inter-conference games in favor of 24 divisional games each season (2008);
- explosion of player salaries and ticket prices (1993-present); and
- three work stoppages (104 days during the 1994-1995 season, entire 2004-2005 season, 119 days during the 2012-2013 season).
When not working to improve the game, Bettman can be found hosting a weekly hour-long radio show on Sirius XM's NHL Home Ice (available here) and being booed in arenas league-wide.
That's today in NHL history.