By Steve Silverman
» More Columns
This is not a surprise, because we are dealing with Gary Bettman.
The NHL’s commissioner is presiding over his third lockout, and keeping players off the ice is what he seems to do best.
Bettman and his henchman, Bill Daly, keep trying to put the onus for this lockout on the players, but nobody’s buying.
Daly assessed the situation as simply being a financial dispute, and it’s now the player’s turn to compromise.
Under the most recent Collective Bargaining Agreement that expired on Sept. 15, NHL players received 57 percent of the gross hockey revenue, and the league wants that figure to drop to 49 percent this year. They want the figure to continue to drop further to 47 percent by the sixth year of the next CBA.
The players lost 24 percent of their salaries in the last set of negotiations and the owners want them to give even more now. Since the players are unwilling to roll over for Bettman, they are being called out for their intractability.
It seems that Bettman is intent on ruining the game. The NHL is and has been the No. 4 pro league in the United States, and it trails the NFL, Major League Baseball and the NBA by a significant margin.
The NHL has had some good news in recent years, as their once-stagnant television ratings went up when Original Six teams like the Chicago Blackhawks and Boston Bruins won the Stanley Cup in 2010 and 2011.
The NHL also finally earned a major television contract with NBC that is paying the league $2 billion over 10 years.
That’s a pittance compared to what the NFL receives from its broadcast partners, but it’s light years ahead of where the NHL had been in previous years.
But what happens to that progress during a lockout? The league becomes an afterthought in the eyes of the majority of the public.
There’s not exactly a ton of hockey fans burning up the phone lines demanding to talk about the lockout.
That was not the case last year when the NFL locked out its players in the offseason and for a couple of weeks into training camp. The NFL owners knew there was too much at stake to risk losing any regular-season games.
The NBA played hard ball with its players and didn’t toss the ball up until Christmas. NBA commissioner David Stern played hard ball, but found a way to end the lockout at the last minute.
Bettman has shown he will sacrifice a full season. He did it in 2004-05. You don’t think he will do it again?
When Bettman was hired in 1993 by the NHL to become its commissioner, one of his responsibilities was to keep labor peace.
He has failed to do that so many times.
Owners have to ask themselves if the man they have charged with stewarding their league is really doing his job. Bettman is a tough negotiator and has gotten things done on the television front, but no games means no income. It means the sport is falling backwards and not growing.
It couldn’t come at a worse time for the New York Rangers.
Going into the 2012-13 season, the Rangers appear to be in a dominant position. They are favored by many to win the Stanley Cup this season. They were a superior team last year, but they were lacking enough goal scoring. They added a stud in Rick Nash to join this team and fix that weakness.
The Rangers look dominant on paper.
That may or may not be good enough to get the job done on the ice, but the lockout is denying them an opportunity.
It’s time for the league’s owners to voice their concerns and let Bettman know that he does not have the authority to ruin the NHL.
The fans need to get louder and voice their concerns as well. The time is now, or the season will be gone before you know it.
Who do you blame the most for this terrible situation? Should Bettman get the majority of the blame? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below…