Hey NHL – It’s Gary Bettman’s Turn To Be Locked Out

A Pure idiotI woke up Sunday morning to the news of the NHL lockout being over.  Let me rephrase that – the NHL owners and the NHL Player’s Association came to a tentative contract agreement and it still needs to be ratified by the players.

Oh joy, we hockey fans now get to be treated to a schedule of about 48 games.  When the Stanley Cup is hoisted in June, it won’t mean a thing.  There won’t be a full season grind to determine playoff seeding and there won’t be an all-star game or Winter “Classic”.  All we’ll really have is the entertainment of seeing how Gary Bettman will spin the lockout to fans in his attempt to heal fan’s wounds.  The last time this happened, the NHL put a “Thank You Fans” logo on each arena’s ice surface.  It warmed my heart and mystically made all of my hard feelings dissolve and drift away like a white, puffy cloud passing through the sky overhead.

No, it didn’t.  I’m no elephant but I can remember the last decade easily.

Last time, Bettman said the lockout was necessary for the betterment of the game.  I think now is the time, for the real betterment of the game, to lock Gary Bettman out once and for all with no negotiation, no mediator, nothing.  Kick the guy out the door and let him collect his pension in a far away place where he can’t hurt the game any more than he already has.

I’m not going to go over the details of this new collective bargaining agreement.  However, one thing that strikes me is the length of the deal – ten years.  How can a deal reached today possibly be acceptable to the league and players say, seven years from now?  The face of the sport and its economic climate could be much different than it is now, possibly rendering today’s agreement useless.  How can one assume the sport can be governed by such an agreement for so long when the sport has been so unstable the past two decades?

I’ve been following the NHL since about 1978.  That’s about 35 years I have invested.  That’s over half of my life.  I have the Center Ice package for DirecTV that allows me to catch every Detroit Red Wings game.  Gary Bettman has taken so many games away from me over the years that I have no choice but to doubt the validity of this new agreement.  I have no choice but to wonder when the next lockout will be and for which absurd reason.  Gary Bettman is like a mad scientist who thinks he is a business man.  He wants to expand hockey into markets it has no business being in and he continues to disregard the history and tradition of the game.


The sad thing is Bettman will once again say this lockout was a necessary thing.  The fans aren’t the only losers here.  The players have lost something here, too.  Hockey players aren’t like baseball, basketball or other traditional American sports athletes.  In general they aren’t motivated by greed or fame.  They play the game out of a genuine love and passion for the sport.  To me, hockey is the greatest of all sports because it combines skill, strength, speed and toughness.  For those of us who understand the nuances of the game, hockey is a beautiful thing.

Gary Bettman doesn’t understand the real sport of hockey.  He sees it as revenue and market share.  Yes, the NHL is a business like any other.  But the business should never overshadow the game itself.  Gary Bettman will tell you that if the last two lockouts didn’t happen, the sport would be run into the ground and not be profitable for anyone.  That may or may not be true.  But if that is the case, why are some owners raising their ticket prices so high you can’t take your family out to see a game anymore?  How can you drive profitability if you can’t put people in the seats?

More importantly, how many times can you take the game away from the fans before they stay away for good?  How many different slogans can you put on the ice surface that tell fans you don’t care about them enough to play through CBA negotiations?  Apparently Gary Bettman thinks we are all a bunch of Charlie Browns, running up to the football to kick it only to have Lucy pull the ball away at the last second.  Gary Bettman is my Lucy.  Gary Bettman is the anti-Christ.  Gary Bettman is an idiot and hopefully he doesn’t attempt to bread anymore.

The difference is after that football is pulled away and we land on our backs, once those little birdies clear away from above our heads, we all know the NHL isn’t the only game in town anymore.  The players know that, too.  European hockey is stronger than ever.  The percentage of European players in the NHL is growing every year but if Gary Bettman continues to be in charge, I would think players would think twice before leaving their home country to come play in the NHL under their business model.  They can just stay home, make the same amount of money and know they will play hockey every season.

Sometimes when I think about the tyrannic rule of Gary Bettman it breaks my heart.  Sometimes it seems he wants to turn the NHL into the NBA.  It seems he genuinely feels he’s handling his job in the right way.  The reality is he is a clown who is singlehandedly dismantling what is arguably the greatest sport on earth (I haven’t forgotten about you, football…soccer as you Americans call it).  The NHL Board of Governors, in all their wisdom, needs to put an end to this ridiculous charade and show Mr. Bettman the door.  And just for laughs, they should slam it shut so it hits him in the ass on the way out.

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