Every day I read that fans shouldn’t blame Bettman because Bettman works for the owners. I have no problem with that sentiment (except possibly for the words “shouldn’t” and “because”), but, to simplify matters, let’s just say that “Bettman” is not a person at all (a stretch, I know) but a synecdoche, standing for the population of owners as a whole, or — as it now appears — the cabal of owners who have formed a shadow government within the larger population.
Calling the owners “Bettman” is certainly more accurate than calling them “the NHL.”
Who or whatever is contained within “Bettman,” I keep coming back to the same (irrefutable?) logic. Either:
- The 2005 CBA did not fix the broken system, as Bettman said it would, in which case “Bettman” is not fit to govern and should be replaced. Or:
- “Bettman” is not telling the truth about the health of the league, and is really just lying to the players in order to steal from them, in which case “Bettman” is not fit to govern and should be replaced.
This is not about money, or contract length, or any of the other minutiae that collective bargaining creates. It is about Boston Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs and NHLPA head Don Fehr, and it [...] was [...] from the start, and negotiations are not done over personalities. They are destroyed over personalities.
And for this parlous state of affairs, we can actually ask a question: Why do the moderate owners in the league never step up and say, “We want to be the ones in the room”? Why did they do what they always do – sit back and expect the hardliners to get them the best deal possible?
I don’t know, but I don’t think this thing gets settled until the moderate owners stage a coup.
[...] Owners [in baseball] had to realize that beating the union shouldn’t be the goal. Getting the deal should be the goal. And when baseball’s owners figured that out, Fehr no longer had to be the iron bar in everyone’s spokes.
Why then, you ask, did the NHLPA hire him? Because they’d been hammered in the previous deal when Bob Goodenow was their boss. He let it be about personalities, too, and the owners were only happy to oblige in kind, and with superior firepower. That cost a season, and a television contract. And that deal turned out to be bad for some owners too – not because the union crafted it so brilliantly, but because the owners circumvented it so often that it became not a contract but a footpath.
Many have noted the insanity of the owners insisting (this time around) on five year contract limits in order to prevent themselves from offering longer contracts.
There is a reason why the distribution of wealth in the NHL is so top-heavy, after all. The few teams that can make money do, and don’t really like distributing it — not to the poorest franchise who are in some cases beyond redemption, and definitely not to middle-class clubs who are trying to operate on the square and still gets their hats blocked year after year. But come CBA time, they all unite around a common theme – hating the guy who runs the NHLPA. It is the hardliners’ song of choice, and it is so now. It is interesting that talks allegedly went well when Fehr and Bettman were out of the room – although, bafflingly, Jacobs and Murray Edwards of Calgary, another fierce hardliner, were allowed to stay in. Then when the players wanted Fehr to return, owners said that could be a deal-breaker.
Keeping Bettman out but sending in Jacobs is like sitting out Tattaglia and sending Barzini instead.