Jonathan Gatehouse took on the task in a new book: The Instigator: How Gary Bettman Remade the NHL and Changed the Game Forever.
Tom Hoffarth of the Los Angeles Daily News did a recent interview with Gatehouse. Here are some of the excerpts.
Q: What prompted the idea to do a bio on Bettman? I imagine the process starting a year or so earlier, knowing there’d be a labor issue approaching and he’d be a targeted person again? Was that the thinking?
A: The idea came about initially because it dawned on me that this winter will mark Bettman’s 20th anniversary as NHL commissioner and nobody had really taken a step back and tried to evaluate the impact he has had on pro hockey. And when you think about it, it’s not hard to conclude that he’s become the most influential–and powerful–figure the game has ever known. But at the time I started researching the book, more than 18 months ago, it wasn’t so clear that a lockout was looming. At that point, Bettman was still talking about “tweaking” the current arrangement with the players, not blowing it up. The timing just ended up being great for me, and lousy for the fans.
Q: What caused the word ‘instigator’ to come up as the title to describe him? That’s really eye-drawing.
A: It just seemed to fit. He’s instigated so many changes to the league during his time as commissioner–on and off the ice. And in that very specific hockey sense of the word, he’s the guy who gets paid by the owners to drop the gloves and start the fights.
Q: Going forward, does he seem to be the right guy to “carry on” and lead the league another 20 years?
A: Listen, if Gary Bettman wins this lockout — which I’m convinced he will–he’s emperor for life. Whether he’s the right guy to carry on will be immaterial. The owners respect money, and he’s made them plenty.