This is not a cataclysmic time for the highest level of professional hockey - at least not yet.
Bettman made it clear he's annoyed that the NHLPA doesn't seem to be
taking the Saturday night end-of-CBA deadline seriously. But the honest
truth is it doesn't mean anything. The pressure points arrive in
October, and these deals don't get done until someone really stands to
So what we get is rhetoric. No progress, just
lots of tough sound bytes. And a real glimpse of frustration bubbling
beneath the surface. Earlier this week, NHL deputy commissioner Bill
Daly, annoyed by a wasted travel day, told Chris Johnston of The
Canadian Press the NHLPA's attempts to declare the lockout illegal in
Quebec and Alberta were "a joke."
When Donald Fehr said the
league abandoned the battle in Alberta, Daly told RDS's Renaud Lavoie
that "Don doesn't know what he's talking about." Bettman then waded in
with his "limited-time-only" proposal Wednesday before adding Thursday
that owners unanimously support his decision to lock out the players if
the CBA expires without a new agreement.
About the commissioner,
Zach Parise told The Chicago Sun-Times' Adam Jahns "He loves his
lockouts." Meanwhile, Sportsnet's John Shannon quoted Jarome Iginla as
saying the players have been "bullied" throughout this process.
Lupul tweeted "I don't see why Gary thinks its [sic] in leagues [sic]
best interest to try to turn the public against the same players that
the league has to market."
Eight years ago, there was zero chance
the NHLPA was getting any kind of new CBA without Bob Goodenow's head
on a silver platter. The league/owners *hated* Goodenow and were going
to 1) get a cap and 2) take him down. He'd done such a great job
financially for his constituency that he had to be both defeated and
Goodenow's plan was to sit out two years to "win." This was a Hindenburg-esque strategy. It was time for him to go.
and Goodenow couldn't stand each other because they are so similar.
Driven, unyielding, possessed to prevail. This is their "hockey game."
Someone once said that Goodenow loved the boardroom battles more than
the on-ice ones. Bettman is probably the same.
The players don't
have the ability to get Bettman fired. But I do believe they are
starting to see him as the owners saw Goodenow. This will be the third
stoppage of Bettman's tenure, which, depending on how you keep score,
puts him with Bowie Kuhn (MLB, 1969-82) and/or Pete Rozelle (NFL
1960-89) atop the all-time leaderboard.
We've all dealt with the
"bad cop" in negotiations. He or she is there to say all the things we
don't like to hear. Sometimes, however, that bad cop needs to be removed
because they become a deterrent to the process.
You don't trust them, don't believe them, don't want to hear a single thing they have to say.
the players, Bettman has reached that point. If I had to win one
negotiation to save my life, he'd be on the (very) short list. But,
right here and right now, his presence is more of a roadblock than a
bridge. Despite the craziness of this situation, there is room over the
next couple of weeks to let someone else step in and see where we go.
(That person is probably Daly. He was stranded at Toronto's Pearson
Airport when he snapped. Any traveller can understand that.)
there is about a 0.000000000000001 chance anyone at the league (or
among ownership) is going to follow this advice. After all, Bettman is
the bad cop, so someone else doesn't have to be. And he does have
defenders who point out he's been privately respectful, both in these
negotiations and recent rules meetings with the likes of Steven Stamkos
and Jason Spezza.
(Surely, the league isn't thrilled with Fehr, but he's new to this process.)
a fresh face or a new approach can make a difference. Bettman still
wields the hammer and can ride in at the end to close the deal. But he
is the one constant from 1994 and 2004. The people on the other side of
the table see that. It's certainly possible that things are so SNAFU'd
that it doesn't matter who's doing the talking. But if the NHL is
serious about starting the season on time, what's the harm in switching
your starting goalie?
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