The National Hockey League was among the big winners at the 2014 Sports Business Awards on Thursday night.
Commissioner Gary Bettman was named Sports Executive of the Year while the league he presides over was named Sports League of the Year and the Winter Classic between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Detroit Red Wings was honoured as the Sports Event of the Year.
It was the first time Bettman has won the award, beating out Fox Sports president and COO Randy Freer, Major League Soccer commissioner Don Garber, Sacramento Kings owner Vivek Ranadive and Under Armour CEO and founder Kevin Plank.
Despite a pair of lockouts over the last decade and the fact that he is showered with boos from fans when he makes public appearances at NHL arenas, under Bettman’s reign the league has seen revenues soar and he was able to coax a mammoth new Canadian TV deal out of Rogers Communications which should put the league on a strong financially footing for the next decade.
The NHL won the league award for the second time in four yeras, beating out Major League Baseball, Major League Soccer, NASCAR and the PGA Tour in the process.
The Winter Classic, which has become a jewel event for the NHL, was recognized for the second time as the top event after previously winning in 2009. The event beat out the PGA’s Phoenix Open, the Breeders’ Cup thoroughbred racing series and Super Bowl XLVIII.
The awards, which recognize the best in media, agencies, sponsorship, events, teams, leagues and technology, are handed out by The SportsBusiness Journal and SportsBusiness Daily and honour excellence in sports business for the period of March 1, 2013 to Feb. 28, 2014.