After getting up at 5 a.m. Friday morning, hoping to hear an agreement had finally been forged between the NHL and the NHLPA, I was dismayed but not at all surprised to hear that negotiations had gone off the rails again. After watching Gary Bettman’s Oscar-worthy half-hour press conference from Thursday evening I actually found myself sickened and longing for my younger days when there was another choice as far as North American major league hockey goes. I have just about had it with some of the clowns who run this league. Maybe I'm being naive, but I have a hard time believing all twenty-nine ownership groups can be fully behind what has transpired so far especially what happened yesterday. Those owners, like the Rangers' James Dolan for instance, need to stand up and put an end to this foolishness right now.
It seems painfully obvious to that the NHL is indeed working from a script, as many have accused from the beginning, written by its legal team at Proskauer Rose LLC, when it comes to the lockout and that a deal won’t be struck until the league actually decides it’s good and ready to make one happen. Why else would be where we are today? A new CBA should have gotten signed this week, plain and simple. Sure, the NHL made some concessions (actually just taking away less from the players) over the last couple of days but why are they so willing to "die on the hill" and possibly lose a season over the five year limit to contracts and a ten year CBA term when the two sides are tantalizingly close on just about everything else. The NHL seems to miss that negotiating a new deal should include some actual negotiating instead of presenting every offer as a take-it-or-leave it proposition and walking out in an insulted huff every time the union tries to counter or doesn’t jump for joy when the NHL tries to shove a less bitter pill down its throat.
The really sad part about Thursday night’s turn of events is had the NHL taken most or even all of the players ‘ counter offer, it would have been a pretty big victory for the league in my opinion. Player split of HRR down to 50% in a couple of years, an eight year CBA (with year six opt out) and an eight year term limit to contracts would sound pretty damn solid to me if I were an owner. Unfortunately, the NHL doesn’t seem interested in making a fair deal with the players, instead it seems interested in crushing them and getting everything it didn’t get the last time around.
As far as Thursday's press conference (or perhaps more accurately a hissy fit) goes, old Gary was really laying it on thick. I would highly recommend anyone who is following the lockout to watch all 30+ minutes of it. There were a couple of times when I thought someone in the group of press who were present was going to actually grow a pair and call him on some of nonsense he was slinging but it didn’t happen. One or two pointed questions were asked and you can see the look of utter disdain on his face that someone would dare question what he was saying. If you really dissect his words you can see why there is no deal yet and that the NHL hasn’t really been trying very hard.
I am not a Bettman-hater like a lot of other fans. I think the guy is highly intelligent and has a vision for the game which he is very passionate about. I don’t agree with parts of it but the league is not paying me $8 million a year for my vision of the game, they are paying him. For every bad thing someone can point out there are good things he has done too and you can’t really argue that revenue has grown by leaps and bounds under his stewardship. What can be argued, strongly, is that his time has come and while not gone, is quickly going. This needs to be the last CBA battle he is part of. The owners might think he is doing a great job but when your employees and customers alike all loathe the league’s leader then you’ve got a big problem.