The garage league is what the NHL is mockingly called in parts of the hockey world and especially Pittsburgh, where current Pittsburgh Penguins owner Mario Lemieux coined the phrase back in 1992. For a decade, 16 of 21 teams made the playoffs. The NHLPA head was arrested for embezzling vast sums of money. Officiating is about managing the game, not enforcing the rules. Clutch and grab was a permitted system under the owners’ watchful eye because it kept offense and thus salaries low.
No, the NHL doesn’t have the most celebrated history, especially when placed against the NFL, which was mostly a publicly pristine organization able to sweep negatives under the rug quickly.
The NBA was also long held as the standard for league stewardship. Fawning over former commissioner David Stern was a public pastime, just as booing NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman at the draft, and as he handed over the Stanley Cup was also a favorite pastime of fans.
“I can do this as long as you can,” Bettman laughingly teased the booing Dallas crowd at the 2019 NHL Draft.