The Instigator – A Review

Gary Bettman

Ok, this isn’t the real title. But it’s probably what most fans think.

This past weekend while picking up Derek Sanderson’s new book Crossing the Line, I also came across another recent puck related work, Jonathon Gatehouse’s The Instigator: How Gary Bettman Remade the NHL and Changed the Game Forever. Given the current state of the NHL lockout and the growing number of calls for Bettman’s head (including some of my own), I opted to dig into it first, in an effort to better understand how this polarizing figure has grown league revenues to $3.3 billion while leading it into three work stoppages.

I fully expected the book to consist of pages and pages detailing how great Gary Bettman has been for hockey since he took over the commissioner’s office in 1992. I was surprised to find however that Gatehouse’s take is a fairly balanced and unbiased one. The first chapter or so covers Bettman’s early life, from his fatherless childhood to his initial law work with the NBA. Beyond that though, the NHL anecdotes aren’t all told from the commissioner’s perspective, and some reveal more than questionable tactics on his behalf.

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NHL Lockout: No-hockey-vember

NHL Lockout - Empty Garden

Get used to this picture, for another month at least.

 

That was quick. A mere day after the artificial full-season deadline passed, the NHL cancelled all games on the schedule for the month of November, upping the total to 326 total games lost to the lockout. This means 22 more games off the Bruins schedule, making a 12/1 Saturday night showdown with the Sabres at the Garden the next potential season opener. So much for those Black Friday Bruins/Rangers rumors. Reports also surfaced that the Winter Classic and All Star Game would be cancelled next week, though the league has since refuted those reports. Of course with the way they’re reporting things, they’ll probably cancel it tomorrow instead.

 

Interesting stat:

 

Statement from Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly:

“We acknowledge and accept that there is joint responsibility in collective bargaining and, though we are profoundly disappointed that a new agreement has not been attained to this point, we remain committed to achieving an agreement that is fair for the Players and the Clubs — one that will be good for the game and our fans.”

NHL.com no doubt forgot to add the “jk…lolololol” that followed that statement.

 

Union lead Donald Fehr’s response:

Last week the owners gave us what amounts to a “take-it-or-leave-it” proposal. We responded with the framework for three proposals on the players’ share, each of which moved significantly, towards their stated desire for a 50-50 split of HRR, with the only condition being that they honour contracts they have already signed. Honouring contracts signed between owners and players is a reasonable request. Unfortunately, after considering them for only 10 minutes they rejected all of our proposals.

The bolded word is important there. Fehr essentially acknowledges that they haven’t quite got to the 50/50 split yet that the league wants, which at this point most people realizes is going to happen one way or the other. The note about honoring contracts is the kicker, as no one would really argue that the players deserve this either.  Of course, the fact that the two groups can’t even meet to discuss these issues is a joke in itself.

 

In other news, Shawn Thornton is still pissed about the lockout, and count in Marty St. Louis as well. Then there is this gem about flying elbows and headshots in the KHL, where a few Bruins are calling home. The good news just keeps coming these days!

NHL Lockout: Good Times Bad Times…

NHL Lockout

Accurate.

As hockey fans, you know we’ve had our share. The bad times continued today as the “deadline” that was in place to save an 82-game season officially passed. Not only was there not an agreement, there really haven’t been any significant “negotiations” (or you know…meetings) since the league rejected the NHLPA’s latest offers on Thursday. Instead the league refused to discuss anything except their latest proposal, which they promptly removed from the table this afternoon with no deal in place. While no one really expected that an agreement would be made in time given last week’s proceedings and the gap that seemingly still remains between the groups, it is extremely disappointing that there wasn’t even a serious attempt at resolving the differences.

 

Where we go from here is anyone’s guess. Neither side seems at all interested in making creative proposals to solve this issue. The league wants the 50/50 split right now (among other things), and the players seem to be of the mindset that getting there in 5-7 years is fair. That’s still a pretty significant gap.

 

Even worse, both sides seem to underestimate the impact to us, the fans, as time passes. Most casual fans are lost at this point. Yes, serious fans will be back when hockey is back, but at what cost? The league and players both continue to talk about growth, but don’t seem to understand that the potential growth that they are talking about continues to slip away as more time passes. No professional sports league has ever been in this labor situation before (4 stoppages in 20 years), so can they really predict what the impact is going to be to the game? What about sponsors? What is their tolerance for the lockout continuing? Hell, even President Obama is chiming in now. The lack of concern being displayed by the parties involved makes it all the more frustrating.

 

Next on the chopping block is likely the Winter Classic, which would be a sign that the season itself is seriously in jeopardy. It could only be a matter of weeks before this would have to be discussed, and the impact of cancelling the league’s biggest gold mine can’t be understated. If the owners and players are worried about revenue now, they have to be giving some thought to what it’s going to be without this game.

 

So as the NHL lockout lingers on, we as fans can only hope that it won’t be much longer before people start to come to their senses and get something worked out for the good of the game.

 

Loose Pucks

  • The big Bruins news out of EurAsia this week was injuries. First it was Tuukka Rask, who suffered a groin strain in a KHL game earlier in the week, and yesterday Patrice Bergeron missed a game with the all-too-common “upper-body injury.” Neither player is expected to miss much time, as both injuries were described as “minor.” Somewhere Jeremy Jacobs breathes easier.
  • Tyler Seguin continued strong play with four points in a game last week, including a hat-trick. He now has 13 points (6G-7A) in 10 games for EHC Biel of the Swiss League. He’ll be returning to Boston shortly as the team goes on a two week break, but when he returns, he’ll have Patrick Kane as a linemate and partner in crime, as the Chicago Blackhawks star signed on this week with the team. Hide your daughters Switzerland.

Prospect Update: Dougie Hamilton

Dougie Hamilton & Zdeno Chara

The future?

With the NHL lockout heading into its second month, it’s easy to forget that there is still some important hockey being played as it relates to the Bruins. We’ve already checked in on current members of the black and gold overseas, but just to our north in Niagara Falls, Bruins top prospect Dougie Hamilton is in the midst of his fourth season with the OHL’s Niagara IceDogs.

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NHL Lockout 2012: Keep the Faith

NHL Lockout - Negotiation

NHL Lockout Tips – CC: Bettman, Gary; Fehr, Donald;

As you’ve heard by now, discussions between the NHL and Players’ Union did not go well this week. It took the league a grand total of one hour to review three counter-proposals from the NHLPA, rejecting all three swiftly. They then proceeded to put on their sad faces and claim that ”none of the three variations of players’ share that they gave us even began to approach 50-50 (revenue split) either at all or for some long period of time and it’s clear that we’re not speaking the same language in terms of what [the Players' Union] came back to us with.” Today, as expected, the league cancelled all games through November 1st.

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