NHL commissioner Gary Bettman fired the president of the league's network today, citing a huge drop in ratings to-date compared to last season.
"I was looking at some ratings numbers at my desk this morning and was shocked and horrified by what I saw," said Bettman. "So I called Mark [Custance] in and asked him to explain the dramatic drop. All he had was excuses, so I let him go. Excuses don't work at this level. This is a professional sports league. For some reason, I have to keep reminding everybody of that."
Due to the NHL lockout that now looks likely to cancel the entire 2012-2013 season, the NHL Network has been forced to fill its schedule with rebroadcasts of old NHL games or live junior and minor league hockey action. Custance said he reminded Bettman of that when they spoke this morning.
"I'm not sure he understands that there are no NHL games right now," said Custance. "I think he thinks they're trying to negotiate a contract but that the games are still being played. Actually, I'm fairly positive that's what he believes. He is easily the dumbest man I have ever met or worked with."
The now-unemployed TV exec said losing his job with the NHL Network was bittersweet.
"I love hockey, so that's hard," he said. "But this is probably best for me career-wise to go out and get another employer because it's very unlikely the NHL will be in business a year from now."