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By Steve Silverman
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This Gary Bettman is some spoiled baby.
He may have reason to get upset after the NHL Players’ Association turned down the league’s latest offer yesterday, but Bettman is a not a spoiled 2-year-old.
He is the commissioner of the NHL and he gets paid a great deal of money to keep the league operational.
However, when the NHLPA came back with some alterations to the deal that was presented by the league, Bettman started huffing and puffing and stamping his feet.
“The offer is now off the table,” Bettman said.
Of course it was. Bettman didn’t get what he wanted when he wanted it. So he took his puck and went home.
In case you weren’t following the latest round of talks between the NHL and the NHLPA, the two sides met this week without Bettman and NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr in the room.
Instead, a group of six NHL owners met with 18 NHL players.
The idea seemed dubious at best, but the lockout is in its fourth month. Any idea was better than not negotiating.
Despite its ponderous appearance, the talks seemed to work. All reports indicated that the two sides made progress. The NHL upped its “make-whole” pool to $300 million (from $211 million) and that pleased the players.
By all reports, the two sides were in agreement on financial issues.
The length of free-agent contracts and the term of the new collective bargaining agreement had not been finished and the NHLPA also raised some pension issues.
It seems the two sides could have decided to agree on the remaining issues at a later date and get back to the business of playing hockey.
They did not do that.
The NHLPA presented the NHL with a new offer and Bettman did not like it. So he stormed out of the meeting rooms and went back to his offices, but not before he dropped another bomb and told the assembled media how “incredibly disappointed” he was in the result.
Bettman’s reaction is simply ludicrous. The NHLPA may be coming back with a few annoying tweaks, but the NHL has gotten the best of the NHLPA once again, just as it did in 2004-05. Fehr wants to get a few more crumbs for the players before the signatures go on the deal.
That’s certainly frustrating from the NHL’s point of view. But since when is it OK to react to frustration by throwing a fit, pulling offers off the table and going off in a huff.
Fehr seems to be gambling with the players’ livelihood by playing his last cards. But instead of trying to finish the deal, Bettman is simply up in arms and harrumphing his was towards the possible cancelation of the season.
Let’s get back to what happened this week. When Bettman and Fehr were not part of the process, the two sides seemed to get along and make progress.
If you are an NHL owner or player, you should be able to figure this out.
You can make a deal without your two leaders in the room.
Bettman and Fehr may have the titles of commissioner and executive director, but they are not really leaders.
These are issues to be dealt with after a new collective bargaining agreement is reached.
The owners may want to rethink their employment agreement with Bettman and the players may want to do the same thing with Fehr.
They are both qualified and intelligent men, but they cannot work together and do their jobs properly. They are hurting the sport of ice hockey.
The same group of players and owners who were in the bargaining room earlier in the week must return, get back to business and finish the job without Bettman and Fehr mucking up the process.
That’s what it will take to save the 2012-13 season.
Are you hopeful of the season being saved? Let us know?