I find it so ironic that eight years after the last lockout, the course of events that eventually sunk former NHLPA executive director Bob Goodenow might very well affect Gary Bettman in the same way.
Back in 2004, Goodenow’s small executive board shared only the negotiation information they deemed appropriate to their 750 constituents, not all the vital information. Case in point: the top secret meeting [...] where the PA handed the owners a salary cap for the first time [while players] were fighting the good fight mere days before on national TV with “we will never give in to a cap” routine.
Now here we are in 2012 and many whispers we heard about Goodenow in 2004 are now being directed toward Bettman. “Old, tired and paranoid” are just some of the descriptions of Bettman these days. [...]
Worse is the perception that only three people control all the power and information when it comes to the future of the NHL, that a new deal hinges solely on Bettman, Bob Batterman (lead counsel for the NHL) and Jeremy Jacobs (Boston Bruins owner and chairman of the NHL board). Everyone else is on the outside looking in when it comes to power in the league.
If this is the case, I don’t see how this ends well for Bettman. If this is the widespread perception, it is beyond a division among owners. We’re only talking about a single owner, Jacobs. Unless this thing is settled quickly (which seems exceedingly unlikely), there’s no way Donald Fehr is going to fold when he knows it’s Bettman and Jacobs more or less against everyone else, the rest of the owners and all the players (and all the fans). I’m sure Bettman and Jacobs have more allies than that description suggests (somewhere in the neighborhood of the eight votes required to crush any proposal), but who thinks the rest of the owners are going to stay passive and quiet and obedient while billions of dollars in revenue disappear into the ether?
Ask many NHL owners [...] and [...] they’ll tell you they know as much of what’s going on as you or me. Some teams will also tell you a two- to three-year slope toward 50/50 split works just fine, and to potentially burn the whole village down in an effort to keep fighting for teams like Phoenix and Florida is just plain wrong. [...]
I would also point out that twenty-eight divided by four is seven. And I doubt anyone would miss the Coyotes or Panthers outside of those markets, besides Bettman of course, whose entire legacy (in his own mind) hinges on expanding the NHL into non-traditional markets…and then keeping those markets afloat at all costs. Bettman is more likely to be looking to expand to thirty-two teams (Hamilton and Quebec?) rather than contract to 28. And didn’t someone just suggest in the last day or so that expansion fees (which constitute several hundred million dollars in instant revenue for the league) could play a part in settling the CBA standstill?
[...] Even if an owner like Detroit’s Mike Ilitch wanted to sit in on negotiations with the PA he wouldn’t be allowed. [...]
It honestly never occurred to me that someone as powerful as Ilitch could be on the outside looking in. That’s a pretty vivid picture of “owners divided.”
In 2004, it was understood that all the owners were willing to burn a whole season because they knew exactly what they wanted: a hard salary cap linked to revenues. In 2012, the owners’ stance isn’t as clear because the wants and needs of each club differ. What’s even murkier is 30 teams’ willingness to go all the way in achieving whatever Bettman, Batterman and Jacobs think they need to get a CBA win.
With a philosophical agreement of a 50/50 split achieved, more than a handful of teams have told Bettman they can’t afford to lose two entire seasons in a span of eight years.
From here on in the biggest question may not be the resolve of the players — as it was in 2004 — but rather how many owners will continue to sit on the sidelines when they already know they now have a deal on the table they can accept.
I console myself with the thought that when the NHL eventually returns, it will be without Gary Bettman.