Does the NHL commissioner need to be free from owners' control?
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12-09-2012, 11:31 PM
Conn Smythe Winner
Join Date: Aug 2012
Originally Posted by
You summed me up in three words.
Using MLB as the precedent, "the best interests of the game" was something that was rarely exercised but basically served as dictatorial powers. Landis used it to clean up the game, but refused to use it on integration. Chandler didn't need to use it to clean up the game, but did use it on integration. Bowie Kuhn used it to outlaw the sale of contracts, which I find to be incredibly short-sighted and damaging. In the NHL, I think Bettman used it to veto the Ziggy Palffy trade to the Rangers, as well as the Lecavalier trade to Montreal. In the NFL, Bert Bell used it in dealing with players accused of gambling in the 1940s, and Pete Rozelle with the same in the 1960s.
"The best interests of the game" is a lot like the judgment in the
Jacobellis v. Ohio
court case, which dealt with pornography. Justice Potter Stewart famously wrote in his concurrence that, "I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced within that shorthand description; and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it."
In short, there is no definition of "the best interests of the game". I don't believe it possible for there to be one. That's why having strong leadership with a strong knowledge of history is vital. The Kuhn decision on sale of contracts, for example, was short-sighted by someone who was typically short-sighted (this showed in other things that he refused to address). In sports, there are two liquid forms of currency: draft picks and cash. MLB doesn't allow draft picks to be traded, never have and possibly never will. Kuhn unilaterally outlawing the sale of contracts while maintaining the ban on trade of draft picks was incredibly short-sighted, and dare I say continued a trend toward competitive
balance that directly flies in the face of the best interests of any North American pro league. He did it because of a personal feud with Charlie Finley, who was himself entirely wrong in the matter as well.
Kuhn also used those "best interests of baseball" powers to end a lockout over the heads of the owners. He was fired not long afterwards. Subsequent baseball commissioners know not to use their office to try and override the owners.
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