Gary Bettman is the commissioner of the National Hockey League (NHL), a post he has held since February 1, 1993. Prevsiously, Bettman was a senior vice president and general counsel to the National Basketball Association (NBA). Bettman is a graduate of Cornell University and New York University, where he earned a law degree.
Under Bettman, the NHL has seen rapid growth of league revenues, from $400 million when he was hired to over $2.2 billion in 2006-07. Bettman oversaw the expansion of the NHL's footprint across the United States, with six new teams added during his tenure, bringing the NHL to 30.
Bettman studied Industrial and Labor Relations at Cornell University in Ithaca, where he graduated in 1974. After receiving a Juris Doctor degree from New York University School of Law in 1977, Bettman joined the large New York City law firm of Proskauer Rose Goetz & Mendelsohn.
Bettman joined the National Basketball Association in 1981, serving mainly in the marketing and legal departments. He rose to third in command of the NBA, spending many years as the league's general counsel and senior vice president, and he played a key role in the development of the soft salary cap system implemented by the NBA inthe 1980s, a system it continues to use today.
On February 1, 1993, Bettman's tenure as the first commissioner of the National Hockey League began, replacing Gil Stein, who served as the NHL's final president. The owners hired Bettman with the mandate of selling the game in the US market, end labor unrest, complete expansion plans and modernize the views of the "old guard" within the ownership ranks. When Bettman started as commissioner, the league had already expanded by three teams to 24 since 1991, and two more were set to be announced by the expansion comittee: the Florida Panthers and Mighty Ducks of Anaheim, who would begin play in 1993-94. Similar to the previous expansion cycles, the focus was on placing teams in the southern United States.
Led by Bettman, the league focused expansion and relocation efforts on the American south, working to expand the league's footprint across the United States. As a result, there has been significant growth in the sport of hockey at the grassroots level with kids in the US south playing the game in increasing numbers.
Commission Bettman quickly accomplished one of his stated goals, signing a five year, $155 million deal with the Fox Broadcasting Company to broadcast NHL games nationally beginning in the 1994-95 season. The deal was significant as a network television contract in the United States was long thought unattainable during the presidency of John Ziegler.
Despite falling ratings, Bettman negotiated a five year, $600 million deal with ABC and ESPN in 1998. It was the largest television contract the NHL ever signed. The $120 million per year that ABC and ESPN paid for rights dwarfed the $5.5 million that the NHL received from American national boradcasts in 1991-92.
Commission Bettman hosts an hour long weekly radio show on NHL Home Ice. The show provides fans with an opportunity to speak directly with the commissioner and voice any questions, comments or concerns related to the game of hockey.