The Stanley Cup will be in the building tonight in Boston, with the Chicago Blackhawks one win away from claiming the championship. And that means it’s time to get excited about one of the highlights of the NHL season: Watching commissioner Gary Bettman struggle through presenting the Cup.
In the years since Bettman’s debut as the Stanley Cup presenter, the ceremony has evolved into one of the most awkward traditions in all of sports. Bettman fidgets, the crowd boos, the posed photo takes way too long, and the winning captain fakes a smile while he waits for Bettman to just let go of the Cup and hit the bricks.
Calls for Bettman to step aside and let somebody else do the honors have reached the point where it’s practically a consensus. But he’s made it clear that he has no intention of doing so, and he will be back out there again this year.
All of which is great news for fans of unintentional comedy. So to mark the occasion, I thought it would be fun to go through all 20 years of Bettman’s reign (there are 19 presentations total, thanks to one year lost to a lockout) and rank them in order of awkwardness.
We’ll be using the following criteria:
Crowd Response: The more hostile the better. Unfortunately, not every video clip I found includes Bettman’s introduction, but we’ll do our best to piece everything together.
Cup Handoff: A combination of factors, including: How disgusted does the captain seem to be by Bettman’s presence? How long does it take them to get the photo right? Can they figure out which hand goes where? Is Steve Yzerman involved? (That last one turns out to be important.)
Bettman Awkwardness: A catchall, and the most important category. We’re looking
at everything from hair to wardrobe to random gesticulation to attempted one-liners to his level of flusteredness, which I don’t think is a word but should be.
Overall: The combined level of overall awkwardness. Not necessarily an average.
So here we go … 20 years’ worth of presentations, ranked in order from the least to the most awkward.