Commentary

Arena food? The instigator rule? Let's liven up this show!

Updated: December 13, 2007, 3:29 PM ET
By Terry Frei | Special to ESPN.com

As NHL commissioner Gary Bettman embarks on his moonlighting foray as a radio co-host, I'll first pass along this tip I received from a sage station executive when I had a similar gig: When in doubt, play Iron Butterfly's "Inna-Gadda-Da-Vida." Not the disgustingly truncated 2:53 single, either. Not even the 17:10 album cut. The full, 19:51, live version.

On a trip last week, I was pleased to discover my rental car was equipped with XM Radio. But, darn it, I discovered my timing was off.

I didn't get to hear XM's new hit show on Channel 204, the "NHL Hour," which often is co-hosted by Bettman, whom I suspect never will be mistaken for Dr. Johnny Fever of Cincinnati's WKRP or Robert Siegel of NPR's "All Things Considered."

[+] EnlargeGary Bettman
Michael Cohen/NHLI via Getty ImagesCommissioner Gary Bettman co-hosts his radio show from the new NHL store in New York City.

The "NHL Hour," with a rotation of co-hosts that also includes NHL executives Bill Daly and Colin Campbell, airs live from 4 to 5 p.m. ET on Thursdays. It's produced in a studio at the NHL's store in Manhattan.

Despairing that I couldn't hear Bettman and his cohorts, I settled for sampling Channel 154, "National Lampoon Comedy Radio," and Channel 53, "Fungus," which as near as I can tell isn't about hockey gunk, but rather showcases such groups as the wildly popular Transplants.

But it all did get me to thinking: What issues should Bettman tackle on his show?

I understand subscription radio is, at least in theory, completely immune to ratings pressures and rather is driven by purchase and subscription revenue. But Bettman still should be thinking about quality, and perhaps even controversy, so here are some suggestions:

• "Creative Math": Bettman explains how ticket prices, the league's single biggest problem because they provide rationalizations for bailing out and staying away, remain startlingly and stiflingly high in the wake of the lockout and the implementation of the salary cap.

• "The Daly Show": Daly, the deputy commissioner, interviews Comedy Central's Jon Stewart, host of the "Daily Show" and former soccer star at The College of William and Mary, about the similarities between hockey and soccer. Stewart also discusses the tug of war on hockey allegiances for young men raised in New Jersey in the 1970s: Flyers or Rangers?

• "Star Search NHL": Brian Jennings, the NHL's executive vice president for marketing, is put on the hot seat about trying to strike a balance between the league's traditional "the team's the thing" mentality and the need to promote the sport's biggest stars. He could use the analogy that if the "new" Madison Square Garden had been built on Broadway with an old-style marquee, the Rangers likely wouldn't be allowed to make Jaromir Jagr's name any bigger than Blair Betts' on the sign.

• "The Matrix": Bettman details how changing the much-despised post-lockout scheduling format to the new "matrix" adopted for next season is not what it appears to be, only a minor tweak. He argues that guaranteeing that teams appear in opposite-conference arenas once every two seasons, instead of the previous once every three seasons, is a 50-percent change. And wouldn't you say a ticket price increase of 50 percent was significant?

• "Instigator Rules!": Bettman attempts to debunk the widely held view that the instigator rule not only is responsible for all of hockey's ills, but also for the foreclosure crisis, global warming, job exportation and the Writers' Guild strike.

• "Catching Up With Teemu": In the initial planning stages, this was going to be called "Catching Up With Scott and Teemu," but the episode title has been changed.

• "The Mitchell Report": Campbell talks with former Stars forward Jeff Mitchell about his seven-game NHL career, and together they gloat that hockey hasn't been tainted by a steroids scandal. At least hockey's "Rocket" didn't reportedly resort to imaginative means to extend his career.

• "Wanna Bet, Man?": Bettman runs through the various parlay-ticket wagering opportunities on the NHL in the Canadian lotteries and suggests possible strategies, including, "Always take the home team wearing its third jerseys."

• "Kick It Up A Notch": Now that Emeril Lagasse's show on The Food Network has been canceled, the super-chef reviews cuisine in the NHL's 30 arenas, opines that nothing has made up for the loss of the toasted hot dogs at the Colisee in Quebec and suggests adding grilled flank steak sandwiches to the menus.

• "Gotta Finnish Your Czechs": Featuring guest appearances by several European ambassadors to the nearby United Nations, Bettman highlights and celebrates the NHL's internationalized talent pool. He also interviews Detroit general manager Ken Holland about how he has managed to assemble and keep the multinational and incredibly complementary roster that continues to dominate the NHL's regular season. (The Wings' top six scorers all are non-Canadians.) After the show, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon will lobby for an NHL expansion franchise in Seoul, arguing (inaccurately?) that there are more hockey fans in South Korea than in South Florida.

• "Shameful Hall of Fame Omissions: Erik Braunn and Igor Larionov": Hint: One should be enshrined (posthumously) in Cleveland, and one should be enshrined in Toronto.

Terry Frei is a regular contributor to ESPN.com. He is the author of the just-released "'77" and "Third Down and a War to Go."

Terry Frei

ESPN.com contributor
Terry Frei is a regular contributor to ESPN.com. He is the author of "Third Down and a War to Go" and "Horns, Hogs, and Nixon Coming."