A Rabbi’s Letter to Gary Bettman

Dear Commissioner Bettman,
I’m sad. I am a New York Rangers fan living in Minnesota. I shell out extra money to my cable company so I can watch the live feeds from the MSG Network. I wait with nail-biting enthusiasm for the Rangers to visit the hosting Wild at the Xcel Energy Center, perhaps every other year if not every year. And I thoroughly enjoy hockey.
As a rabbi, at the end of a long day, Rangers games became a release for me. They reminded me of my childhood. They gave me hope that perhaps this could be another 1994 or 1940 (as the Devils fans of my childhood were so ready to chant). On occasion, they sweeten my bad mood and on others bring down my good mood — no doubt, to which my wife could attest. But above all, hockey — no matter who was on the screen — was something I watched, followed and loved without any hesitation.
As clergy, I preach about spurning avarice. I make a wholehearted attempt to encourage my friends and family and community to seek a life of wholeness and balance. I preach about walking a path where we are happy with our portion in life. Surely my congregants chuckle that my Facebook status often revolves around the latest from the TSN or ESPN sports-ticker as opposed to an insightful teaching from the Torah, but they know full well that from the pulpit, I speak about compromise, dialogue and open arms.
You see, the notion of compromise in Judaism is not both parties finding a sense of majority comfort. It is both parties finding a sense of minority discomfort. No doubt our current NHL lockout has two sides to every story, but for now, I simply and plainly have to point an unwavering finger at the owners — and you in particular, a fellow brother of Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternity.
Get uncomfortable: take the players at their word. Let them play under the current conditions. If they strike, then the fans will indubitably come to know the bitter truth. But right now, it is you and the owners alone who are turning us off to hockey altogether. I’m far too young to remember four play stoppages: a strike in 1992, a lockout in 1994-5, a lockout in 2004-5, and now this…just when hockey was building momentum again in this great country.
So I come to ask myself: is this the hockey of which I want my children to be future fans? I remember the “Game On” hats and shirts, and I proudly wore mine. But should they be rebranded and rereleased… will my children understand how many jobs were lost and businesses were closed because of squabbling over figures with six and seven zeros?

“Rabbi” Mark Messier (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)


I stopped watching baseball and basketball in the 1990s. Now as a proud resident in the State of Hockey who still remains loyal to the Broadway Blueshirts, I am beginning to contemplate whether I’ll still watch if and when hockey returns. My challenge to you Mr. Bettman is to be brave. To quote the rabbi of my youth, The Captain, Mark Messier: “Bravery is not the absence of fear, but the action in the face of fear.” Be Brave. Be Bold. And let us have our hockey… even if it means discomfort. Even if it means some money lost. Even if it means compromise. Because in the end, I need it, we need it, you need it. And we’re on the precipice of losing it for good.
Very respectfully,
Rabbi Avi S. Olitzky
Beth El Synagogue
5224 west 26th Street
Saint Louis Park, Minnesota
This is a guest post by Rabbi Avi Oltizky. Rabbi Olitzky serves as clergy for Beth El Synagogue in St. Louis Park. He is active in Beth El’s youth programs, as well as being a die-hard hockey fanatic. Rabbi Olitzky is also a TC Jewfolk board member.
(Photo: RangerRick)