Monday, October 22, 2012

YawAxis vs. Bettman: A True Tale

With all this CBA talk going on, I thought I'd offer a bit of a distraction. Allow me, if you will, to tell you about the time I met Gary Bettman. (I can hear your squeals of delight already.)

Our tale begins in early June 2011 with the Best Wife in the Universe - that'd be mine, in case there was any doubt. "Yaw," she says, "WestJet is has a deal to see the NHL Awards in Las Vegas. Would you like to go?" (I told you she was the best, didn't I?)

It took me all of two seconds to reply that yes, in fact, I would very much like to go. It was already confirmed that the Jets were coming back, and hockey fever was surprisingly high in the city. 

So off I went.

The Awards is just what you may have seen on TV - celebrities (or reasonable facsimiles - I don't count being on a Real Housewives of... as being a celebrity). Afterwards, there is a party by the pool where most of the nominees (and other dignitaries who are around) put in at least an appearance. We fans get a chance to say hi, get an autograph or two and generally have a good time with other fans.

So, there I am waiting to go into the theatre when who should come drifting by but Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly. Cool, I think. And then I ask the question that has been on every Winnipegers mind since TNSE announced their purchase - "Hey, Mr. Daly - any word on a name for Winnipeg?"

He stops and looks over with a grin and says "Not yet. I might hear something by the end of the night, though. Ask me again later."
"Wow. Umm, thanks. I'll do that!" 
And with that, Bill Daly wanders down the red carpet, nose-deep in his Blackberry.

The Awards come to an end, and everyone files out to the after-party. I've been mingling, meeting some people, talking hockey - Barry Trotz is happy to see Winnipeg get a team, Jeff Skinner looks younger than 18, Cam Neely still looks like he could drop me with one punch. The cup is sitting on a riser in the pool.

Yes, someone dove in the pool to try and touch it. 

And then, as I'm wandering to snag another beverage for myself, there they are - right in front of me.Bill Daly and his boss, the High Priest of Evil himself - Gary Bettman. I can't help myself. Daly told me he might have info. I have to ask the question.They both smile as they see me approach. It's a good night to be a fan, to be part of hockey. Everyone - even the Commissioner - is in a good mood. 

Which one looks like he actually wants to be there?

"Hey, guys! Any word yet on the Jets name?" A slip made out of habit. The NHL team in Winnipeg has just always been the Jets in my mind. The team hasn't actually been named yet, and won't be until draft day. 

Bettmans smile vanishes, replaced by a scowl. "You mean the Winnipeg team, don't you? No. No word." He turns and starts to walk off, Daly at his side.

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