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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Weekend Update with Gary & Bill

Weekend Update - Lockout Edition

Weekend Update – Lockout Edition

Meetings Close With Slight Progress

As we wrote in our last post, we felt the meetings this weekend between the NHL and the Player’s Union were going to tell a lot about the state of the NHL lockout. Said meetings adjourned earlier today, and while there are no firm plans to meet this week (yet), the tone of the sessions seemed to be a positive one. As reported, the discussions centered more on player health and safety (including the disciplinary process), and not on the main revenue issues that are central to the debate between the camps. With that said, common ground was reported on almost all of the issues discussed, and the proverbial wheels seem to be turning. As far as next steps, the NHL felt meeting internally was their next best move (rather than meeting with the union again on Monday), but talks have not officially broken off and are expected to resume this week, perhaps as early as Tuesday. Progress is progress, and we’ll take what we can get.

Also important to note, commissioner Gary Bettman and NHLPA union head Donald Fehr met individually (albeit briefly) both Friday and Saturday, and are said to have discussed ways to make further progress on the HRR issues that have plagued discussions. It’s expected that the HRR topic will resurface sooner rather than later in further talks. Again,  these discussions seem to be a step in the right direction even though true negotiations on this issue haven’t happened yet. Also of note was deputy commissioner Bill Daly’s full-on bitch-mode when speaking about the negotiations, complaining over his frustration on how the revenue issues are not front and center. We find this a bit ironic considering prior to these meetings his only move was to say the NHL was waiting for the union to make a move. And to reiterate, to us the sessions this weekend indicate some progress, which is better than no progress. So while the lockout clock ticks away and the regular season calendar approaches, at least we can maintain some hope that the sides are actively working on some of these issues and appear to be ready to get back to the table. Let’s hope the trend continues this week…