September 13, 2012; New York, NY, USA; NHL commissioner Gary Bettman speaks during a press conference at the Crowne Plaza Times Square. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-US PRESSWIRE

LOCKOUT:Day Thirty-Three: Sometimes you just got to salute the bad guy.

Wow. Did we just all see the possibility of a restored season just fall apart? Does anyone else feel like we just witnessed the NHL version of a “Buckner”? The NHL put forth its proposal that gave us the first glimmer of hope for a season. The NHL had its first public relations coup of this whole disaster. A 50/50 split of revenue and some concessions to the players’ union.  It seriously looked like we’d have enough of a consensus to give us a hockey by early November.

Now, what do I think of this? I think that this was a massive public relations campaign initiated by the league to shift blame away from the league. The owners had been seen to date as the main reason why the lockout occurred. The league needed to change the course of public opinion, and it was rather brilliant. Once again, someone with a nefarious nature and less than altruistic motives chose to rather than redeeming them self, drag others down to their level.

Gary Bettman and the league did commit to a masterstroke of planning here. The players were the side with the high ground. The players were going around, making small gestures to ensure the goodwill of the fans. Now, by offering a proposal that met a few demands and giving the veneer of civility, hundreds of players and millions of fans who wanted hockey back bought into it. (I was one of them.) Even Fehr was briefly enamored.  Then Fehr gave it a serious look and offered a response.

“Simply put, the owners’ new proposal, while not quite as Draconian as their previous proposals, still represents enormous reductions in player salaries and individual contracting rights,” Fehr said in the letter, according to a report by TSN. “As you will see, at the 5 percent industry growth rate the owners predict, the salary reduction over six years exceeds $1.6 billion. What do the owners offer in return?”

Fehr’s letter continued to break down the NHL’s offer.  “We do not yet know whether this proposal is a serious attempt to negotiate an agreement, or just another step down the road,” Donald Fehr wrote. “The next several days will be, in large part, an effort to discover the answer to that question.”

Fehr chose to test the waters. Fehr and the NHLPA committee put together proposals to offer back to the league. Gary Bettman said the players’ union made three counteroffers to the league’s latest proposal on Thursday, but they were “nowhere close” to what the NHL offered Tuesday. “We were done in an hour today because there was really nothing there,” Bettman said after leaving the NHLPA offices in Toronto.

Now, take a look at social media sites, especially Twitter. A lot of people now think the players are as greedy and stupid as the owners. Not so. They’re just being duped by someone who really knows how to manipulate people. I just ask the rest of the fans to keep faith with players. They want hockey as badly as we do, but it’s their job, their safety, and their long term well being that they have to negotiate over.

There it is people. This was a pre-packaged publicity stunt. The NHLPA was set up to get dragged down into the muck with the owners. By offering hope to desperate people, he made himself out to be the savior. When Fehr saw it for what it was, and challenged Bettman with a counter offer, Bettman did what any villian does in those “fall guy” movies: played the victim and focused the blame on the ‘hero’.

We’ve been duped folks. Take a look at social media sites, especially Twitter. A lot of fans have been accusing the players as being just as greedy and stupid as the owners. That’s just not true. They want to work(some of them really need to) as badly as we do. It’s their job and their livelyhood. We need to let this ugly process continue and we have to have faith in the players. If we see both sides as greedy monsters who see us as dollar signs rather than fans, then hockey is diminished, and we let the bad guy win.

 

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