Gary Bettman is not a popular person. With anyone. He's been the face of the owners in the NHL lockout and so far, the owners have been accused of being everything from tone deaf to Satan. That doesn't give the guy a lot of good PR. Factor in the fact that he also gets the blame (sometimes justifiably, sometimes no) for everything ever wrong about the NHL, and you get a lot of hate. People boo him at the presentation of the Stanley Cup and Conn Smythe so much that it absolutely kills what should be a moment of triumph and excitement. How would you like for one of your life's defining moments be accompanied by a chorus of boos so loud you can't hear yourself think? Sure, they're not for you, but they're killing all of the good vibes.
Bettman's a terribly condescending speaker and very disingenuous. It might have something to do with being a lawyer, but he is just not someone you want praising people. It just doesn't come across as real. His speech at the Hockey Hall of Fame inductions last night was about what you would expect -- patronizing, irritating, and more than a little boring:
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It's bad when everyone in attendance is either half asleep, shooting lasers out their eyes at you, or extremely unimpressed by how hard Bettman is trying to come across as someone who cares about hockey and the achievements of Pavel Bure, Mats Sundin, Joe Sakic, and Adam Oates. He was commissioner during a portion of their careers. He handed the Conn Smythe to Joe Sakic. That is as far as any sort of relationship between he and the inductees goes.
After being commissioner for almost twenty years, Bettman has to have formed at least an enjoyment of the sport of hockey. To say that he understands the emotional side of the game and how much the sport means to these guys -- which was what was on display last night -- is a fallacy. He has absolutely no business trying to "relate" to what is going on in that room. The Hockey Hall of Fame is not limited to the NHL, so Bettman has no obligation to be there. His reception last night was icy at worst, cool at best. Perhaps next season he needs to take the hint.