This video popped up online last night at some point. Chris Chelios, Cam Neely and Wayne Gretzky, a few of hockey’s major stars at the time of the first NHL lockout all the way back in 1994, all spoke up against then-new NHL commissioner Gary Bettman.
Until that point, the NHL only had a “president”, but when Bettman took over from Gil Stein in 1993, he became the first commissioner. We know this already, but part of the issue with Bettman, and something he’s never been able to shake off, is the idea that he’s not a hockey guy, that he’s just some American lawyer determined to take over the game. Here’s the video:
There’s a great picture, one I couldn’t find online, of Gary Bettman just after he was named commissioner. He’s sitting on a beach somewhere, a young-looking lawyer in an oversized black and orange NHL jersey and cap and the most disingenuous smile you’ll ever see. In short, not a hockey guy. Neely saw it, Gretzky saw it, but Chelios had the best comments, in retrospect:
If I was Gary Bettman I’d be worried about my family or Gary Bettman’s family I’d be worried about my well-being now. He’s going to affect a lot of people you know and some crazed fan or you know, a player you know they might take it into their own hands and figure they’d get him out of the way and things might get settled. You hate to see something like that happen but he took the job.
The main thing is he doesn’t know anything about hockey, that’s obvious. You know he doesn’t recognize players like Jeremy Roenick and Brendan Shanahan in the meetings and you know, whether it’s just little man syndrome thing or whatever…
Prior to the lockout, only the rich teams had success, or so the NHL has claimed.
[We] believe we’ve had seven years of incredible competitive balance. Twenty-nine clubs have made the playoffs. We’ve have seven different Stanley Cup champions. The game on the ice has never been better. That’s a function of this system. The system, as originally negotiated, in our view, needs some adjustments.
So said Gary Bettman. Either he’s lying, fully aware that he’s lying, or he’s completely unaware of what NHL teams have been up to in the last seven seasons.
Take the Edmonton Oilers, the smallest of small markets in the early 2000s. In the seven seasons leading up to the 2004-05 lockout, the Oilers made the playoffs five times. Since, after a system was put in place that was designed to help them, the team has been terrible. As Black Dog Pat suggested of the Oilers’ playoff run in the Puck Daddy Essentials, the period between 1996 and 2006 was “a fun decade of those little teams that could that culminated in the Finals run of 2006″.
No mention of competitive balance or the lockout, just the natural progression of a team over that period of time. The Phoenix Coyotes may be a better example. They were awful, in both capped and uncapped eras, until Dave Tippett came along and suddenly turned the league’s poorest team into one of its best over the last three seasons, despite no owner, no budget, and, as Bettman has indicated, no adjustment to the collective bargaining agreement that has become a haven for rich teams to spend money.
Well, here we sit, September 12th, and the current NHL collective bargaining agreement expires on the 15th. I think it’s safe to say most of us are nervous about what’s about to happen.
More on that at the bottom of the post – let’s look at a few pieces of info and interest from around the hockey world today.
Today was Lubomir Visnovsky’s arbitration hearing about his “trade” to the Islanders – he maintained that since he got traded with a no-trade clause on his way to Anaheim (or at least he thought he had one, for some reason), that he still had one, and Anaheim had no right to deal him to a team that wasn’t on his list. Read the rest of this entry »
Fun fact: when he thinks no one is looking, Gary Bettman likes to daydream about what it would be like to have a moustache.
It was somewhere between 2 and 3 AM when I met the NHLPA guy. It was June, mere days after the end of the playoffs, those first few days of summer when hot nights are still a welcome novelty and you’re actually a little bit grateful to have a Saturday night with no games to watch. He was a low-level PR guy, I was a low-level media girl, and we stood on the patio in the sweltering dark, watching streetcars rattle by and contemplating higher forces of hockey beyond our control.
“Everyone is going to side with the owners,” he said, taking a hard, bitter drag on his cigarette. “Just like last time. The fans always side with the owners.”
“They just do. Doesn’t matter what we say. The owners always win the PR battle”
He said it as if it was a certainty, with the I know the ways of this hard world better than you, little grasshopper weariness that hockey guys often seem to take with fans and bloggers and other naïve creatures. Three things I know: the world is round, the trees are green, and the NHL owners will always win fan sympathy. He could not have been more absolutely sure that the PA would be crucified in the media. And, as it turns out, he could not have been more absolutely wrong.
There is an incessant need to assign blame in the way we analyze situations. We love our dichotomies. There are good guys and bad guys. People who are at fault and people who are victims. Winners. Losers. So on. So forth.
More often than not though, this isn’t how things work. Rarely, in the grand scheme of things, do things break up so conveniently. It would be magnificent for those of us who have to write about things, but it’s simply not the case. When it is broken up that way, it’s largely fabricated.
I’m here to tell you NHL Labor Dispute 2012 (TM) is not Gary Bettman’s fault. It’s not Donald Fehr’s fault. It’s not the owners’ fault. It’s not the players’ fault. It’s their collective fault.
I was scrolling through my Twitter feed late Sunday night when I found a succession of tweets from Daniel Tolensky (business analyst at Pulver Sports) that mused on the status of the CBA negotiations.
The question being asked was pretty straightforward: given the quotes from Gary Bettman during the 2011 Stanley Cup Final, how did we end up here?
Whether the phrase is “world’s apart,” or “meaningful gulf,” it’s clear that the two sides aren’t down to figuring out who gets the extra nickels. We’re left with the majority of experts thinking we’re almost certainly going to see a lockout of some length.