Hockey fans deserve better than this; way better than this. As the NHL lockout drags on, the prospects for a season seem to be getting grimmer.
“Gary suggested the possibility of a two-week moratorium,” NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly wrote in an email to The Associated Press on Thursday night. “I’m disappointed because we don’t have a negotiating partner that has any genuine interest in reaching an agreement. Zero interest.”
So rather than true negotiations taking place to get the players back on the ice, it is all about spin and blame. The reality is that the owners locked out the players. The NHLPA wanted to keep the game going while continuing to negotiate an agreement. The owners and their captain, Gary Bettman, chose the lockout route and holding the game hostage. Meanwhile, the loyal hockey fans, who graced the league with their overwhelming presence following the lost season in 2004-2005 get screwed again. Those are loyal fans who help the NHL generate 3.3 billion dollars in annual revenue.
The only thing that may have been crazier than this was when the NFL flirted with losing a season trying to figure out how to split up 9 billion dollars in annual revenue. But if you remember, the NFL came to their senses without losing any games.
There have been stories in the media that the two sides may consider federal mediation at some point. If this would get the players back on the ice, then I would be all for it. However, this step should really be unnecessary. The NHL Commissioner should be the mediator in this saga. Rather than being a mediator, Gary Bettman is simply the owners representative. Calling him the Commissioner is as silly as calling Donald Fehr the Commissioner, or for that matter calling me the Commissioner. If Gary Bettman truly represented the best interests of the NHL, he would represent the owners, players and the fans.
That brings me to my next point. It is time for Gary Bettman to step down as Commissioner of the NHL. He has presided over three work stoppages during his 18 year reign, with one complete season already lost and another one hanging in the balance. It is time for a new Commissioner to be selected by the owners, players, and the fans, who will really represent the best interests of the league. If that were the case, work stoppages would forever be a thing of the past.