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Gary Bettman

(1952 - )

Gary Bettman is the current commissioner of the National Hockey League.

Gary Bruce Bettman was born on June 2, 1952, in Queens, New York, and raised by his mother. He graduated from Cornell in 1974 and New York University Law School in 1977. After law school, he worked at Proskauer Rose, a prestigious sports law firm in New York, where he met David Stern, who went on to become commissioner of the National Basketball Association. Bettman joined Stern at the NBA as assistant general counsel in 1981 and worked in the NBA league office for 12 years.

Bettman became commissioner of the NHL on February 1, 1993, the sixth man to run the NHL since 1917. When he arrived, the league had teams in only 14 U.S. cities, league sponsorships were almost nonexistent, and the NHL had not had a network television agreement in almost 20 years. Bettman expanded the league from 24 to 30 teams, including teams in new locales such as Dallas, Anaheim, Miami, Phoenix, Carolina, Nashville, and Columbus, and new teams in former NHL cities such as Denver, Atlanta, and Minnesota. He increased revenues from $400 million to over $1.6 billion, and negotiated two network television contracts, including a $600 million deal with ABC and ESPN in 1998. In 1998, Bettman allowed NHL players to participate in the Olympic Winter Games, marking the first time NHL players had played in the Olympics. The NHL also suspended the regular 2001–2 season for 10 days to allow 125 players to participate in the Olympic Winter Games in Salt Lake City. Bettman made changes to the game itself, realigning and renaming the league's divisions to reflect geography; adopting a two-referee system; moving goal lines, blue lines, and defensive-zone circles; and changing the playoff formats.

However, his term in office was also marked by labor strife, first in 1994 when owners voted to lock out the players at the start of the season, which wiped out 32 games of the 80-game season; and in the 2004–5 season, which was canceled altogether.

Bettman lives with his wife, Shelli, and their three children, Lauren, Jordan and Brittany in Saddle River, New Jersey.

Sources: Jews in Sports; Encyclopaedia Judaica, © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved; Photo: This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license. Author: captcanuk