Could it be true? Could the president of the NHL love lockouts more than hockey? I don't believe it is, in fact, though I recognize many fans agree with Todd, it seems silly, even pointless, and it's arguably nothing more an emotional reaction to the threat of losing the game (or in Todd's
case, a manner of currying favor with readers).
If you listen to call-in radio sports shows in Canada and read the papers you'll get the impression Gary Bettman is the unrepentant lead character in 'The Grinch Who Stole NHL Hockey'. But guess what? He's not. The man is doing his job and defining who that hockey Grinch is isn't hard, though the answer is not one person. No, it's the owners and players, plain and simple. Bettman is only doing the bidding of his bosses, those nasty owners, while Donald Fehr is doing the bidding of his bosses, those greedy players.
In fact arguably Fehr has more influence over his bosses than Gary Bettman over his. You think owners got to be rich enough to buy an NHL team not knowing how to conduct business? Okay some maybe, but most - no way. But you think the players got to be outstanding hockey players without knowing how to conduct business? You bet they did, which leaves them needing Fehr to help them appreciate the complexity of it all more than the owners need Bettman.
Gary Bettman: following owners orders
Six years ago it was easy to see the owners weren't going to back down because too many were losing money but the players blindly followed Bob Goodenow, who would now be pumping gas somewhere if it weren't for the fact that his buy-out
was somewhere in the $8 million range. The statements Trevor Linden made as the then-head of the player's union parroted Goodenow, who lead Linden and the rest of the players all the way to missing an entire year's paycheck; after all that they still capitulated to a salary cap which, it turns out, wasn't such a bad idea anyway.
Bettman's threat that another lockout looms is the owners threat that another lockout looms. Are the owners going to lose a year because Bettman likes lockouts more than hockey? No, the owners are digging in their skates, feeling they can't help but outbid one another because once the rules are set it becomes about winning, and that is leading to the players getting too much of the NHL pie (see Zach Parise and Ryan Suter contracts
), leaving too many franchises unable to make money. If that's really what they again feel - they could be posturing for a better salary cap deal - then they are likely to be willing to lose another season to make that correction over the long haul.
Attacking that mean Gary Bettman
In his piece, Todd compared Bettman to Richard M. Nixon, though he neglected to clarify how the NHL president lied and cheated in the manner the American president did. He's not the only writer going overboard to vilify a guy who, while he may not have a warm and fuzzy personality, is just punching the clock. Todd, and other media, and many fans, obviously feel they have to strike out at someone, though in the end it won't have an effect on what goes down.
The decision on what does down will be made by that myriad of people who may once again play the lead roles in 'The Grinch Who Stole NHL Hockey' - the NHLPA and the owners of the National Hockey League franchises. And my money is on Gary Bettman preferring to see it end with hockey and not a lockout.