Gary Bettman turned to face a gigantic TV screen inside a trendy restaurant on the Friday afternoon of All-Star weekend, and stared. Alone on stage, he watched the future and the past collide.
Playing was a presentation of the NHL's player and puck tracking system, the league's much-anticipated dive into the microchip technology realm. Tracking, which is being promoted heavily this month as the league's next big endeavor, will debut next season. Welcome to the future.
To demonstrate how far the NHL has come on the tech file, a clip of the famous Fox Sports glow puck ran as part of the video's intro. As if that nostalgic kick wasn't enough, a young Bettman flashed on the screen for a soundbite about the late-1990s broadcast experiment. A blast from the past.
In his 40s then, Bettman had the look of a pro sports executive who had the world in front of him. Contemporary Bettman's lost some hair, played a starring role in the second and third lockouts of his quarter-century tenure, and endured endless booing from fans everywhere. The pros far outweigh the cons, mind you. Now 66, he has a resume as diverse as it is long and, despite the eyebrow-raising timing, is a well-deserving Hockey Hall of Fame inductee.