|02-18-2005, 12:55 AM||#1|
Join Date: Apr 2001
It's Time for Bettman To Go
This suicide season ended grimly, as we all knew it would, with blame enough for everyone.
Let the wakes begin, brats and beer and memories for the hockey faithful mourning the season's passing.
The other 99 percent of sports fans who don't care can look ahead to the NBA All-Star Game this weekend, the Daytona 500, spring training and college hoops. The world keeps spinning.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman spoke like an accountant and looked like a mortician -- or maybe it was the other way around -- as he directed the final services Wednesday in New York.
He trotted out the numbers that never added up, the plans for salary caps and fixed payrolls that didn't fly, the negotiations that kept breaking down.
With a touch of sincerity, though no emotion, he apologized to fans, saying they deserved better.
"This is a sad, regrettable day that all of us wish could have been avoided," Bettman said.
This was a day that absolutely could have been avoided if there had been an ounce of trust among the players toward the owners and their supposedly bloody red accounting books.
It was a day that could have been avoided if the players didn't believe the owners were out to bust the union, not just win a better deal.
It was a day that could have been avoided if both sides had more love for the game than they had for their money. Ah, but we all know it's just a business, cold as a corpse.
Bettman serves at the whim of the NHL Board of Governors, and it's time for that board to look elsewhere for leadership.
He guided the league to unprecedented, unnecessary and unwise expansion. Under Bettman, the NHL made more money and lost more money than any time in its history. He aspired to greatness, took a shot at rapid growth, and wound up flopping.
When a team is losing, the coach is the first to be fired. When the league loses as badly as the NHL just did, the commissioner should be patted on the back and kicked in the butt.
Bettman was a dreamer and schemer, a former NBA marketing whiz who never understood that hockey, for all its history and thrills, didn't have the broad passionate U.S. fan base that could justify his vision of manifest destiny.
Hockey is not McDonald's or Starbucks. It didn't need to supersize itself and post franchises all over the map.
Without rights fees from television, like the ones in the other pro team sports, it couldn't afford to let average salaries skyrocket to $1.8 million last year. NFL players, by comparison, average $1.3 million, and that's with the fattest TV deals in sports.
Figuratively and financially, NHL players are not in the same league with NBA players (averaging $4.9 million) and baseball players ($2.5 million).
The NHL, under Bettman, was run almost like a giant Ponzi scheme, nothing holding it up but hopes and promises and the vague idea that a TV deal would one day bail it out.
Maybe it would have gone on growing if the new generation of owners didn't keep throwing money at the players, and if the players themselves didn't keep undermining the sport at every opportunity.
It wasn't just the crazy stuff that made headlines and police blotters. It was also the way the players, in general, thought they were bigger than their great little game, indestructible and irreplaceable.
Where are they now? Playing in Russia and Sweden and small arenas wherever they can find a cheap skate.
They lost one season and could easily lose another, if the league survives at all.
For young players trying to make their names, lost seasons are serious. For older players trying to keep skating in their 40s, such as Mark Messier, Brett Hull, Steve Yzerman, Ron Francis, Dave Andreychuk and Chris Chelios, there might never be another season.
The player half of Mario Lemieux, 39, wants to skate again, if and when the league resumes, but the owner half didn't want to keep taking losses.
There are losers in every direction from this NHL debacle. Publicly owned arenas, such as those in St. Louis, Detroit and Pittsburgh, will lose millions of dollars in tax revenues. Workers in those arenas will lose income.
Money aside, hockey's die-hard fans are furious that all this had to happen. They are a diminishing cult committed to the game, and they hate seeing their beloved sport shrink into insignificance.
For the relatively piddling difference of about $6.5 million per team in the final bargaining positions -- the salary of one top-tier player -- the two sides couldn't come together, and everyone lost.
In the frenzied final days of haggling, Bettman had a chance to exert leadership, to force both sides to yield a tad more. Instead, he stiffened up, stood firm with the owners, and pronounced the season dead.
Now all he has to offer is a hollow apology.
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|02-18-2005, 05:08 AM||#2|
Join Date: Sep 2003
Location: Fresno, CA
Long Live Bettman....Death to the Union!
Sorry I couldn't help it. I honestly wish Baseball would have done the same to Donald Fehr.
Pain is temporary. Quitting lasts forever. -- Lance Armstrong
|02-18-2005, 09:47 AM||#3|
Join Date: Dec 2003
Location: The CT
I have no sympathy with the owners. They're the ones writing the checks and running the business. The onus is really on them to rein in their spending if their revenues can't support it.
I hope they do create an alternate league. Maybe keep it smaller, north of the Mason-Dixon line (i.e., where the fan base really is). Or a "super league" including European cities were hockey is big (and 40% of the players come from) might be interesting, though I would suspect that costs and logistics would make it prohibitive...
|02-18-2005, 10:25 AM||#4|
Join Date: Dec 2003
I respect Fehr- like him or not, he's had to deal with the crooks that disguise themselves as baseball owners, while dealing with "Fans" whose stance is often motivated almost primarily by jealousy.
|02-18-2005, 12:30 PM||#5|
Join Date: Nov 2003
Amen to that brother - whoever you back in the dispute it is a FACT that Bettman has done absolutely nothing but suck all life and tradition out of the sport and has managed the league to death's door.
If the revolution ever came, he'd be one of the first ones up against the wall.
Goodenow can go screw himself as well
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