National Hockey League labor negotiations resume Monday in New York City, somewhat of a surprise after NHL commissioner Gary Bettman suggested the NHL and the NHL Players Association enjoy a two week “moratorium”. Talks between the NHL and the NHLPA broke down on November 11, Bettman’s rationale for a hiatus – a belief a break in the talks would help bridge the gap.
"We can confirm that we have tentatively agreed to get back together on Monday, either late in the afternoon or early evening," NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said in an email sent to the media. "The meeting was requested by the union and it's their agenda. We will see what they have to tell us."
Gary Bettman hasn’t commented on what happened to his two-week hiatus, NHL players took to Twitter and spoke with the media throughout North America expressing how they felt about Bettman, the man who has been the NHL’s commissioner since 1993.
"I gotta be honest: I personally think he's (Bettman) an idiot," seven year NHL veteran Ian White told The Detroit Free Press. "Since he's come in, I think he's done nothing but damage the game."
When Gary Bettman became NHL commissioner In January 1993 the NHL generated just a shade over $1 billion annually in league wide revenues. At the end of the 2011-12 NHL season the NHL reported revenues of $3.3 billion.
"The whole process has just been frustrating," White said. "I think, just where we stand now, you'd think that we're close to making a deal if they're willing to come a little bit our way. It's something that could have been done even in the summer. So it's frustrating. There's just absolutely no need to be missing games and doing this kind of damage."
White has every right to express his frustration, and indeed as White suggests the two sides might be able to reach an agreement if the NHL moves a little closer to where the NHLPA believes the new CBA should be. White calling Bettman an “idiot” embarrassed the NHLPA, it’s a nonsensical statement. The NHL and the NHLPA will reach a new CBA sooner rather than later, when the NHL begins playing hockey again, Ian White’s inane comments about Gary Bettman could come back to haunt him. White has played for five different NHL teams since joining the Toronto Maple Leafs late in the 2005-06 season.
Chris Chelios was even more critical of Gary Bettman during the first NHL lockout in 1994, Chelios played in the NHL for 18 years. Chris Chelios is now the Executive Advisor to Ken Holland, the general manager of the Detroit Red Wings, a role that Steve Yzerman held with the Red Wings before leaving to become general manager of the Tampa Bay Lightning. Chelios now works on the management side, the same side Gary Bettman does.
Chelios famously issuing a veiled threat against Bettman during the 1994 NHL lockout, suggesting that Bettman should be "worried about [his] family and [his] well-being", because "Some crazed fans, or even a player [...] might take matters into their own hands and figure they get Bettman out of the way."
Chelios is expected to be a part of the NHL’s 2013 Hall of Fame class. If Ian White wants to get into the Hockey Hall of Fame he’ll have to buy a ticket, an admission ticket.
Chelios could say what he wanted too Chelios had a Hall of Fame career. White calling Gary Bettman an idiot was ill, advised comments that could cost White his job. There are risks when you say anything, Mike Illitch owns the Red Wings – White represents nothing more than causal labor to the Red Wings. Throwing darts at Gary Bettman isn’t likely to sit well with Illitch.
Monday’s talks are nothing more than window dressing at this point. Never say never, but no one close to the NHL labor talks believe the two sides are close to reaching an agreement.
The distrust – continues to grow, the innuendoes and rumors, heading from bad to worse.
Friday, citing unnamed multiple sources, the Philadelphia Daily News reported that Philadelphia Flyers owner Ed Snider, “once seen as a supporter of the Bettman's push to rein in the players' share of revenue, has soured on the process after it became apparent that a deal would not be brokered in time for a Dec. 1 puck drop.”
Snider released a statement Saturday afternoon, saying: “An article appearing in today's Philadelphia Daily News is absolutely erroneous. I am a solid supporter of National Hockey League Commissioner Gary Bettman and the League in this unfortunate situation. Like all fans, players, owners and League officials, I am extremely hopeful that an agreement can be reached and we can eventually be playing hockey again soon. League rules prevent me and all owners from making any comments on the labor negotiations. I will continue to honor that and not make any further comments."
The media has sided with the NHLPA throughout most of the NHL stoppage now in its 65th day. Other than occasionally speaking at media conferences Gary Bettman hasn’t talked to the media, his Bill Daly his deputy has handled most of the media requests. On the player side many NHL players have talked to the media. NHLPA executive director Don Fehr like Bettman has let his number two Steve Fehr (his brother) handle most of the media requests. The players speaking with the media represents a gold mine for the media, Ian White precious sound bites.
The NHL and the NHLPA will reach an agreement on a new CBA sooner rather than later. Last year the NBA and the NBA Players Association reached an agreement that ended NBA lockout on Friday November 25, the day after Thanksgiving Day. Could the NHL duplicate the NBA’s magical 2011 Thanksgiving weekend labor gift? Not likely, but expect the NHL and the NHLPA to agree on a new CBA sometime in the next three weeks, with the NHL season starting between Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.
For Sports Business News this is Howard Bloom