NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman was named a 2023 Lifetime Achievement Award recipient in the January 30-February 5 issue of Sports Business Journal (SBJ). He will receive the award at the Sports Business Awards ceremony on May 24 in New York.
“Since his initial grant of the NHL media rights in 1994 made headlines in the opening issue of Sports Business Daily, Gary Bettman has been a permanent fixture on our pages and a hugely influential figure in our industry,” said the publisher and editor-in-chief of Sports Business Journal , Abraham Madkour, in an article announcing the award. “His willingness to think big, take risks and stay true to his principles has made the NHL a force to be reckoned with on the global sports landscape and positioned the league for continued success.”
Bettman celebrates his 30th anniversary on Wednesday, overtaking the late David Stern as the longest-serving commissioner of any of North America’s four major men’s professional sports leagues. Stern served as NBA commissioner from February 1, 1984 to February 1, 2014. Bettman served under him as senior vice president and general counsel of the NBA before being elected commissioner of the NHL on December 11, 1992. He took office on February 1, 1993.
Sports Business Journal cited Bettman’s accomplishments as growing the NHL from 24 to 32 teams during his tenure and increasing league revenue from about $400 million per season to a record $5.2 billion last season. The report also recognizes Bettman’s “creative streak,” which has helped expansion and relocation create thriving teams in non-traditional markets. The Dallas Stars, Nashville Predators, Carolina Hurricanes and Vegas Golden Knights were cited as examples.
The NHL is the first major professional sports league to feature a team in Las Vegas since the Golden Knights began playing in the 2017-18 season. The Seattle Kraken joined the NHL in the 2021-22 season as the 32nd team.
Sports Business Journal also highlighted the NHL Winter Classic, an annual outdoor game that began in 2008 and has become a key regular-season event. The magazine also highlighted the league’s willingness to sign media rights agreements with non-traditional broadcast partners, beginning with Fox Sports in 1994 and later with Comcast’s OLN. This led to a long-term association with NBC Sports and, since last season, partnerships with ESPN and Turner Sports.
“The 70-year-old has had an incredible journey of advancing the game around the world. The NHL has thrived under his direction and leadership,” Madkour wrote of Bettman on the Sports Business Journal Forums page. “He is a leader of substance and clearly helped define the sporting business of the modern era. He deserves the Lifetime Achievement Award.”
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