NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman is doing his utmost to score his own form of hat trick. A hat trick is hard enough to accomplish in one game, a natural hat trick is even harder. But watch out, the commissioner is about to create his own. (For sake of argument, lets call this one a ‘Bettman.’) The ‘Bettman’ is a special hat trick when you preside over three or more abbreviated or canceled seasons out of no other reason that league avarice and/or owner stupidity. (That last part does not apply to the Jacobs Brothers or Pete Chiarelli. The Boston Bruins are a profitable, vibrant team.)
Bettman decided to offer the media his view on the current league’s troubles. “Time is getting short and the owners are not prepared to operate under this collective bargaining agreement for another season, so we need to get to making a deal and doing it soon. We believe there is ample time for the parties to get together and make a deal, and that’s what we’re going to be working towards.” Of course Gary, you wish to reward the owners who by their own bad decisions have driven half the clubs in the red, several barely functional, and one team(Phoenix Coyotes) in receivership.
“This isn’t news. ” stated Bettman. “The union has been told this repeatedly for the last nine to 12 months.” The union was certainly NOT told about this brilliant plan made by the league. Hey players, kiss a fifth of your wages good bye. Oh, while you’re at it… let’s cut all contracts below five years. (Unless we decide to break faith with ourselves and parcel out career length contracts to players.) Salary arbitration… forget that completely. (I’ll be honest. When Dale Weise won his arbitration, I found myself for the first time routing for a Canucks player. E V E R!
NHLPA Executive Director Don Fehr ( and possible future candidate for sainthood) has been trying to keep the talks productive. He, and his teams of players and lawyers have been scouring through the financial information obtained through independent auditors. (For those keeping track, Bettman questioned the relevancy of the players needing this information. “This was..we got the numbers.” Fehr informed the media. “We have analyzed the proposal to the extant we can with the numbers we have. So we can look on it and we’re looking on the effect overall and an individual club by club basis.” (Essentially, which owners are trying to apply the ‘golden screw’ to the players and the union.)
Fehr informed the media the the players formal response would arrive on Tuesday. The media pushed Fehr to comment on the magic date of September 15th. “Under the law, if an agreement expires, that may give someone the legal ability to go on strike or in this case to impose a lockout,” he said.”There is no requirement to do so, and if nobody does anything, you continue to work under the old conditions until they do things. If there is a lockout, somebody has to choose to do that.”
Well, Bettman all but dropped the L-word in the last round of talks with the press. The L didn’t stand for ‘Love’. While I personally thought it stood for ‘Larceny’, we all know what the L-word is. LOCKOUT.
The 2004-2005 season for the National Hockey League was cancelled on February 16, 2005. The was due to an unresolved lockout between the players and the owners(and overseen by Bettman) that began in September 2004. It was a first on two occasions. One, it was the first time that a major sports franchise had closed up shop for an entire season. Secondly, it was the first time since 1919(when a global pandemic of influenza wiped out 1-in-50 people on Earth.) that the Stanley Cup had not been awarded. It bloody well says under the 2004- 2005 section of the Cup, ‘Season Not Played.’
OK, owners lets talk money. Eighteen teams were in the red last year. In an effort to save yourself from yourselves, you want to shut down the game. No doubt that will put the kabosh on the deal for the Coyotes, giving the league a one hundred and seventy million dollar albatross. While you’ve got that millstone around your neck, perhaps you can have a few more teams to fold under that kind of burden. On the ‘brightside’, if the teams lost even out, the NHL can finally go through with that re-alignment you so desired.
Then there’s us… the fans.. Those little cash cows that pony up two hundred dollars for a authentic league jersey, a thousand dollars a year for a half dozen games, and an obscene amount of dollars for hats, cups, bumper stickers, posters, etc. By blindly trusting in your own poor judgment and unbridled greed you will royally tick US off. People who have gone through this before and are rather tired of your shenanigans. So, owners, do the little cash cows a favor. If you’re on the fence of the red or the black financially, pull the ones who are deep on either side in a room and read them them the Riot Act.
I love hockey. My friend brought me into an amazing world that has been a catalyst for a lot of positive change in my life. If you allow Bettman to destroy something that millions of people love for the sake of forty to fifty people….. you will lose me, and a host of others. Your own short sightedness could very likely lead to the end of professional hockey in North America as we know it.