By Steve Silverman
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Rangers fans should be thinking about their team as the prime contender for the Stanley Cup. The addition of Rick Nash in the summer gave this team the big-time, goal-scoring option that was just what was needed.
If the season had been played as scheduled, the Rangers should be figuring on how they were going to hold off the Pittsburgh Penguins and Boston Bruins on their way to the Stanley Cup Finals. It should have been a hockey season for the ages.
But instead, the season is hanging by a thread. There’s about three weeks remaining before Gary Bettman will return to the lectern and tell the world that the 2012-13 is canceled in full and there will be no further NHL news until the league conducts its player draft in June, 2013.
By that time, they may not even have a league.
Bettman may be the commissioner of the NHL, but he has never looked out for the best interests of his sport.
He cares about hockey only as a business, and his only interest is protecting the business of the owners who employ him.
The players? They are just necessary tools who take up the owners’ resources. Bettman could care less if he had the best players in the world at his disposal or if he took some out-of-shape beer leaguers and put them in Devils, Flyers and Red Wings uniforms.
The big picture is that there was no reason for this dispute in the first place and there is certainly no reason for a lockout that is about to stretch into its fifth month.
At this point, the two sides disagree on the length of the proposed Collective Bargaining Agreement and the term of individual player contracts. The owners don’t want to go longer than five years; the players want seven years or more.
But when it comes to dividing revenue and making the players whole (as a result of the lockout and accepting givebacks), the work is done. Agreements were reached earlier and that should have ended the lockout.
But Bettman and his core group of owners that includes draconian Jeremy Jacobs of the Boston Bruins, Craig Leipold of the Minnesota Wild and Murray Edwards of the Calgary Flames want to crush the players.
Apparently, they don’t care what happens to their league as a result of locking the players out.
Hockey, as you may have noticed, is not the top sport on the totem pole. The NFL rules and nothing is going to change that.
Major League Baseball is trying to hold off the NBA and remain second and then the NHL follows its fellow winter sport.
This is the way it has been for a long time. However, the NHL left the dark ages in 2011 when it signed a 10-year, $2 billion contract with NBC to give it a real television contract for the first time in the modern era.
That contract began last season, but in Year Two, the NHL is delivering nothing to the network. There’s a provision to add another year to the contract if this season is lost due to labor strife, but what kind of way is that to do business with a new partner?
NBC has to be thrilled with Bettman and the NHL owners.
Current advertisers are angry with the league for the second lockout in eight years.
Season ticket holders who returned after the 2004-05 lockout may not want to feel foolish yet again.
He is hurting the league as a whole and the Rangers. This should be the time when Glen Sather is fine-tuning the roster and thinking about the stretch run.
Instead, it’s all about Bettman’s disastrous lockout.
Will you return to watch and spend your money at a hockey game anytime soon? Share your thoughts below.