(Massive stick tap to Toby Fowlow for the amazing Photoshop)

INT. NHL head offices – Boardroom

2004. GARY BETTMAN sits at his desk, calmly. His hands folded over themselves and resting on the table. BILL DALY stands off to the side – quiet, admiring. STEPHEN PAGLIUCA of Bain Capital stands at the end of the table, finishing his pitch to Bettman to buy the NHL. Bettman is unaffected. He stares straight ahead at Pagliuca, a smirk permanently worn across his face.

PAGULICA

Four billion dollars, Gary. We’ll make you a billionaire while you’re sitting here from one minute to the next.

BETTMAN

What else would I do with myself?

PAGULICA

Are you asking me?

BETTMAN

What else would I do with myself?

PAGULICA

I don’t know what you’d do.

BETTMAN

If you were me and Bain offered to buy what you had for four billion dollars, why? So, why?

PAGULICA

You know why.

What are you planning to do? Come to a deal in the CBA, make a deal with the players association? Be my guest. But if you can’t pull it off, you’ll just have to deal with this in another eight years and you’ll be stuck with nowhere to go. Why not turn it over to us? We’ll make you rich. Richer.

BETTMAN

Did you just tell me how to run my league?

PAGULICA

We’re offering to buy you out

BETTMAN

One night, I’m going to come to you, while you’re dealing with being involved with a political disaster, and I’m going to say to you that my league is absolutely not in trouble and we just posted record revenues. And then we’re going to lockout the players.

PAGULICA

What are you talking about? Have you gone crazy, Gary?

BETTMAN

You don’t tell me about my league.

PAGULICA

I’m asking you to be reasonable, if I’ve offended you I apologize.

BETTMAN

You’ll see what I can do.

Pagulica leaves the boardroom, confused. Daly remains still, silent. Bettman leans back in his chair and picks up a document, the latest proposal from the NHLPA. He chuckles to himself and throws it in the garbage.

INT. BOARDROOM – 2012

Bettman and Daly sit across the table from STEVE and DONALD FEHR as well as a large contingent of NHL players. The players seem anxious and frustrated. Bettman’s facial expression has not changed from the last scene which was set 8 years prior.

BETTMAN

Gentlemen, I’ve traveled on almost a two hour flight to be here tonight. I couldn’t get here sooner because Mr. Leipold was putting a new wing on his house and I just had to see it. It is because of the work of men like you that Mr. Leipold was able to afford the wing and I have two other owners just waiting for theirs. So, gentlemen, if I say I am a business man, you will agree. You have a great chance here, but bear in mind, you could lose the entire season if you’re not careful. Out of all the men that try to be professional hockey players, maybe one in two hundred will actually make it. The rest will be spectators – the fans that will watch the game that is played by you. This is the way that this works.

DAVID BACKES

What is your offer? We’re wasting time.

BETTMAN

I offer you a revenue share degrease of 11% in this first season, an 8.5% decrease in the second season and a 5.5% decrease in the third. We will see your share of revenue drop to 51.6% in 2012-13, 50.5% in 2013-14 and 49.6% in 2014-15. Eventually we will come to split this 50/50. I give you a fixed salary cap of fifty-eight million dollars next season. My owners have their stadium workers all ready to work. I can start up a pre-season and we can start the season next week. We have the connections so we can staff all positions immediately. I assure you, whatever the other offers you may bring forward, when it comes to negotiating, we won’t be there.

INT. BOARDROOM

STEVE and DONALD FEHR sit across the table from Bettman and Daly. Bettman’s facial expression is still set on “smirk.”

DONALD

Why did you sign the last CBA if you knew you’d just end up here in 8 more years?

BETTMAN

Did it work?

DONALD

Maybe.

BETTMAN

What percentage of hockey related revenues did the PA receive?

DONALD

I’d like it better if you didn’t think I was stupid. So, honour our existing contracts and we’ll give you your 50/50 split.

BETTMAN

I’ll tell you what I’m going to do. I won’t honour your existing contracts and, if revenues increase and prove to be promising, I’ll consider looking at term limits on the contracts.

DONALD

We’ll be willing to accept term limits as long as you honour the existing contracts.

BETTMAN

Just tell me one thing to help me decide – what else have you got for leverage?

DONALD

We have the Winter Classic. We have the All-Star Game.

BETTMAN

Is that for sure? How do you know I won’t just cancel them?

DONALD

All-Star game, maybe. I don’t know about the Winter Classic.

BETTMAN

You don’t seem very willing to negotiate. Here, you bring me a written offer and then we can start talks for real.

DONALD

We’ve been negotiating for months.

BETTMAN

Bring me a written offer and we’ll see what we can get done.

Donald looks confused. He stares blankly at Bettman and then glances at his brother. The two men stand, as if in unison, and depart the boardroom.

DALY

What concessions do we plan to make to them?

BETTMAN

Who’s that?

DALY

The players’ union.

BETTMAN

We’re not going to make concessions. We’ll make extremely small movements towards an agreement.

INT. BOARDROOM

Donald Fehr and Gary Bettman sit across the table from one another.

BETTMAN

I’d be happy to work with you and make a deal, Donald.

DONALD

You would? Yes, yes, of course, that’s wonderful

BETTMAN

But there is one condition for this to work.

DONALD

All right.

BETTMAN

I’d like you to tell me that you are a poor negotiator and that the players lost faith in the fight. I’d like you to tell me that the players just want to play the game and have revolted against you and that you have been putting up a false unified front and that you are a poor union head.

DONALD

But that’s a lie. It’s a lie, I cannot say it.

When can we make a deal and save a 48-game season?

BETTMAN

Very soon.

DONALD

How long will it take to get a season up and running?

BETTMAN

It shouldn’t take long.

DONALD

We want our contracts honoured. They are owed to us. You get your revenues. We want what is owed to us.

BETTMAN

That’s only fair.

DONALD

I have put up a false unified front and I am a poor union head.

BETTMAN

Say it like you mean it.

DONALD

I have put up a false unified front and I am a poor union head.

BETTMAN

Say it like you are delivering our proposal to the players. Don’t smile!

DONALD

I have put up a false unified front and I am a poor union head.

BETTMAN

Say it again.

DONALD

I have put up a false unified front and I am a poor union head.

BETTMAN

Say it again.

DONALD

I have put up a false unified front and I am a poor union head.

BETTMAN

Those games have already been cancelled.

DONALD

What?

BETTMAN

Those games. They’ve been cancelled. The season is finished.

DONALD

No they haven’t

BETTMAN

Yes, it’s called negotiating, Donald. See, I am the commissioner of the league; so, of course, I can cancel the games as I see fit.

DONALD

But we’ve given you several offers. We’ve moved in your direction. Do you understand?

BETTMAN

You need to accept our proposal. You need to accept what we want. Do you understand, Don, that’s more the point. I dictate your contract rules. Every day. I control how the owners sign players to contracts.

DONALD

I must have this, Gary. My players want to play but we need to make a fair deal for us as well. My players have…Gary, I won’t bore you but if I could ask the spirit of Bob Goodenow for help I would but he could not make a lasting CBA either.

BETTMAN

Because you are not the chosen brother, Donald. Steve was chosen. He is the one who is the mouthpiece from radio interviews. You are just a fool.

DONALD

If you would just–

BETTMAN

You lose.

DONALD

Take this offer, Gary.

BETTMAN

I’m so sorry. Here: if you make a proposal, and I make a proposal, and I have the control to take your proposal, then my proposal reaches across the room and starts to supersede your proposal. I make the accepted proposal, Donald. I. Make. The. Accepted. Proposal. I write it up.

DONALD

Don’t bully me, Gary.

BETTMAN

And because I’m not a poor negotiator, I am the Greatest Commissioner In Sports.

Bettman stands and takes the proposal from the boardroom table and throws it at Fehr. Fehr leaves the room in horror as Bettman picks up the proposal and rips it to pieces.

BETTMAN

The season’s finished.

Comments (5)

  1. You missed the part where he mercilessly beats Fehr over the head with the proposal, causing his untimely death.

  2. You have Bettman calling Fehr “Gary” at one point. Other than that it’s very good.

  3. That held me. It resonated deeply with a certain part of my psyche that maintains guardianship over all manner of childhood nightmare and failed idea and discarded, destructive philosophy…

    To be sure, although presented as fiction, this is precisely the zero-sum dynamic that is playing out among the parties involved.

    A character not unlike a Keyser Soze — “I shall have power over you because I will destroy anything which you might use to exert power over me.” — Kill-my-entire-family (cancel the entire season) to prove I own you; have always owned someone like you – will always own someone like you.

    ….Yes. But, what about the fans? They’re an unknown factor in such an exercise. The fan and sponsorship backlash may render Bettman, Daly, the Fehrs, ownership, PA and all of NHL Hockey completely moot.

    If such a Bettman exists and sees a greater merit in the destruction (of a total money-making 30-team cash-cow) he can wreak (better by his own hand) than to bow to the accommodation of any compromise, no matter how slight? If that’s his mindset? His chief negotiating-tactic?

    ….Well, then – “Scorched earth” it is.

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