The NHL should be embarrassed by their officiating crews of the past two seasons. There is no reason for there to be 12 hooking penalties in a game. Hockey is supposed to be played 5-on-5, and fans don't want 30 minutes worth of power plays every night. I realize this is their half-assed strategy to add more scoring to the game, but it was fine before. There is nothing wrong with a 2-1 game. That's hockey. It's gotten to the point where some games are simply unwatchable.
Add to that the inconsistency in discipline from the league office. Nobody knows what qualifies as a check from behind or a headshot anymore, because 75% of them aren't even reviewed. The officials are incapable of calling the correct penalties on the play, and the league is even worse as handing out discipline. It's a joke. Add to that the bias against/for certain teams (we all know who they are) and the whole situation becomes comical. Remove the instigator rule and half of these incidents disappear, but we can't do that because that "promotes violence" and "puts a bad image on the game". Guess what folks? People watch the NFL, MMA, and pro wrestling for a reason. Violence.
Bettman tried to make the game more like basketball. Well, he succeeded. It's less physical, more boring, and simply unwatchable at times. Congratulations Gary. Add in the ridiculous Versus (remember OLN?) contract, a channel that many homes don't get and even less have any idea of it's existence. Let's put games on Monday and Tuesday nights only. And lets not show replays and use the worst possible announcers. The technical crews clearly know nothing about hockey, because if they did the broadcast would look nothing like it does. Again, it doesn't even matter because nobody knows about Versus.
As ESPN goes, the sports world goes. Hockey is not on ESPN anymore, and has disappeared completely from Sportscenter. You can't grow the sport when you get zero coverage from the top media outlet in all of sports. Forget the fact that ESPN does a better broadcast than any other (American) outlet has ever done. The NHL needs ESPN, and ESPN needs NHL because they've lost an entire demographic that refuses to watch ESPN for 7 months because they care not to see 45 minutes worth of NBA "highlights". Supposedly, ESPN wants the NHL back on a trial basis. It's a no-brainer, any idiot could figure that out. Apparently, Bettman isn't even on that intellectual level.