This is the time of year to be a hockey fan. Well, unless you root for the Toronto Maple Leafs, New York Islanders, Florida Panthers, Ottawa Senators, Edmonton Oilers...you know, teams that aren't necessarily playoff "regulars." But playoff hockey is fun for everyone. Everyone except Gary Bettman. Let's take a look at some dialogue between NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and ESPN President George Bodenheimer, as the two sides discuss a potential TV deal.
George Bodenheimer (calls Gary Bettman): Hello, Mr. Bettman.
Gary Bettman: Umm, good evening.
George Bodenheimer: It's 9 AM...
Gary Bettman: Oh. I apologize.
George Bodenheimer: Anyway, I'm sure you know why I'm calling you--
Gary Bettman: Ah, yes, is it that time again?
George Bodenheimer: Yes, Mr. Bettman sir, I think it's time that we negotiate a new TV contract with the National Hockey League. Your on-ice product is at a premium right now, and we feel that we can provide proper marketing to your players and teams.
Gary Bettman: Oh that? I thought you were going to say that it's time for the NBA playoffs...
George Bodenheimer: That, too. Mr. Bettman, I'm sure that we can get an agreement done to put pro-hockey back on ESPN.
Gary Bettman: But what about poker?
George Bodenheimer: Well, let's just say poker ratings haven't exactly been that great. Hell, even hockey in America might be able to draw a larger audience. Now, Mr. Bettman, let's talk about the game so that I can become a more educated hockey...person.
Gary Bettman: Sure! What can I help you with?
George Bodenheimer: Okay, something I've always wondered: when a player skates into the zone ahead of the player with the puck and the referee blows the play dead...what's that called?
Gary Bettman: It's called "Dammit, Michael Grabner, you're too damn fast, slow the hell down and stop going off-side."
George Bodenheimer: Oh, so it's called off-side?
Gary Bettman: I'm not sure. Icing, penalty, power-play, boarding, goal, one of them...
George Bodenheimer: Mr. Bettman, please work with me here. I'm trying to get the NHL back on ESPN. Now what would you say are the three best rivalries in hockey right now?
Gary Bettman: Me versus Lou Lamoriello...oh, I'm sorry. Pittsburgh/Washington, Pittsburgh/Chicago, Chicago/Washington. Basically, the whole league.
George Bodenheimer: Ah, I see. Your league is wise to consist of few teams. I mean, honestly, how absolutely stupid would it be if the National Hockey League expanded to 30 teams and had teams in inadequate markets in the southern United States?!
Gary Bettman: Ha, yes, that would be dumb...oh, excuse me, I'm getting another call. / Hello?
Jamie Davis (Versus/Comcast President): Good evening, Mr. Bettman.
Gary Bettman: It's morning...anyway, Mr. Davis, I presume you've called to talk about a new TV deal. Well guess what? I'm on the phone with--
Jamie Davis: 5-years/$100,000.
Gary Bettman: Done! We did it! A new TV deal that will allow the NHL to prosper and grow to new heights!
Jamie Davis: Umm, you do know that this is the President of Versus, right?
Gary Bettman: You're not from ESPN?
Jamie Davis: No...
Gary Bettman: Crap. (hangs up on both of them)
Colin Campbell: So, Gary, did you sign a contract with ESPN?
Gary Bettman: No...
Colin Campbell: Matt! (A raging Matt Cooke enters and elbows Bettman in the face) Gary, I think you need some time in the quiet room!
Matt Cooke: Eh, we'll call him back in before the Celtics/Knicks game starts (both Campbell and Cooke leave the room).
George Bodenheimer: Hmm, I have been hung up on. Alright, we'll put poker back on ESPN.