City Club of Chicago: NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman
March 24, 2017
Gary Bettman – Commissioner – National Hockey League
Gary Bettman has served as the Commissioner of the National Hockey League since 1993 and has guided the world’s top professional hockey league through more than two decades of growth and advancement on and off the ice. Record revenues, record attendance, and numerous fan-friendly and community-minded initiatives are just a few examples of the ways Bettman has brought the NHL to a broader audience than any time in League history.
During Bettman’s tenure, League revenues have increased more than tenfold and franchise values have increased exponentially. On the ice, the NHL’s competitive balance may be unrivaled in professional sports. As a result of the strongest Collective Bargaining Agreement in sports and the implementation of rules designed to accentuate the speed, skill, and creativity of players, a different team has earned the most cherished and historic trophy in professional sports – the Stanley Cup – every year since 1998.
Advancements in the game under Bettman include the implementation of overtime and the ‘shootout’—which eliminated tied games during the regular season—and the implementation of the two-referee system, which revolutionized hockey officiating around the world. Other innovations include the development and advancement of video review (since replicated by the NFL, MLB, and NBA), emergency on-ice trauma care, and elevation in the study of injuries. The NHL, in cooperation with the NHLPA, was the first pro sports league to mandate neuropsychological baseline testing to help determine return-to-play guidelines for players who have suffered concussions. The League and the NHLPA also developed a protocol that requires immediate screening, away from the ice, for any player suspected of having suffered a concussion.
A calendar of innovative signature events—including iconic outdoor games such as the Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic, the Coors Light NHL Stadium Series, and the Heritage Classic—has driven fan engagement and sponsor participation to unprecedented levels. Bettman also has focused attention on the League’s international makeup and appeal. NHL players have stocked the rosters at each of the past five Olympic Winter Games, and the World Cup of Hockey tournament returned to the NHL calendar in September 2016. As a further testament to the League’s international appeal, NHL games are televised in more than 160 countries and covered on NHL.com in seven languages—Czech, Finnish, French, German, Russian, Slovak, and Swedish—in addition to English.
Charity, community service, and diversity also have been at the forefront of Bettman’s tenure. Since 1998, Hockey Fights Cancer has raised more than $16 million in support of cancer research and awareness. Meanwhile, Bettman has overseen the creation of Hockey is for Everyone, a grassroots initiative to bring hockey to youngsters, and the You Can Play Project, which is dedicated to ensuring equality, respect, and safety for all athletes, without regard to sexual orientation. NHL Green, another of Commissioner Bettman’s initiatives, has been recognized widely for its support of environmental causes and received the prestigious 2011 Sport for the Environment Award from the global Beyond Sport organization.
Before leading the NHL, Bettman served 12 years with the National Basketball Association. Prior to that, he worked in the Proskauer Rose Goetz & Mendelsohn law firm.
A native of Queens, Bettman graduated from Cornell University and the New York University School of Law. He and his wife, Shelli, have three children—Lauren, Jordan, and Brittany—and three grandchildren.