Bettman trying for NHL lockout hat trick 0
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman. (LYLE ASPINALL/QMI Agency file photo)
We waited 16 years for this?
That ominous sound you hear, Jets fans, is the sabre rattling in advance of another NHL work stoppage, courtesy of your favourite commissioner, Gary Bettman.
Yes, the man who cared so much about bringing major league hockey back to little old Winnipeg is ready to shut down the game for a third time in order to fix what he's calling a broken economic system.
And if you're just a tad confused - after all, the NHL locked the players out and we lost an entire season just eight years ago so the owners could get the salary cap that was going to fix the system - well, join the club.
During a break from talks with the NHL Players Association in New York this week, Bettman said the owners "are not prepared to operate under this collective bargaining agreement for another season."
He also acknowledged the two sides "have a wide gap to bridge on a whole host of issues," making it clear the league will shut down Sept. 15 if it doesn't have a new deal.
A couple things come immediately to mind.
One, we can only assume owners like Mark Chipman and David Thomson in Winnipeg, and anywhere else the cash registers are ringing like sleigh bells at Christmas, don't have any problem operating under the current system.
And two, why'd you push for this system so hard in the first place, fellas, trumpeting it as the foundation of long-lasting labour peace when you forced the players into it after the lost season of 2004-05?
I know, those are rhetorical questions.
Well, here are some more.
Why the hell should the fans care when billionaire owners can't even adopt a proper system of revenue sharing, where the rich ones help the poor ones?
Unlike NFL owners, hockey owners share less than 10 percent of their loot, allowing the rich to get richer and the poor to beg Bettman for a new system. One that'll allow, you guessed it, the rich to get even richer.
Since the the last lockout, revenue has gone through the arena roof, from some $2.2 billion to around $3.3 billion.
So, to recap, the owners got their salary cap, and have seen revenues shoot up 50 percent since - and they still have a system so broken they're on the verge of turning out the lights again?
Apparently the 24 percent salary cut forced upon the players the last time wasn't enough.
Now the owners want to cut the players' share of revenue from 57 percent to less than half.
Those long-term, mega-deals star players are signing? The owners want to curb those, too. At least, the small-market, money-losing owners do. The big guys are the ones throwing the money around.
Oh, and they want to extend the bare-bones, entry-level deals for drafted kids and force players to wait longer to become unrestricted free agents.
It's the bargaining equivalent of a prostate exam.
If I'm a player rep, I'm saying hands off, buddy. You fixed your problem on our backs last time, find your own solution this time.
Of course, some of you will point to the players' ballooning average salary and say, too bad, so sad. Take your cut or don't play - we'll find someone who will.
But as we aim our fingers of blame from side to side, we might want to look in the mirror.
You won't want to hear this, but the only reason the NHL brass is even considering another lockout is because we, the fans, let them off far too easily after the last one.
What should have been a damaging blow to the business turned into a boom, particularly in Canada.
Remember the game's frenzied re-launch back in '05, lauded as the "new NHL" by the TV networks and hyped like the second coming?
The league's been raking it in ever since.
No wonder Bettman can steer his 30 governors toward the cliff once more.
"Look what happened the last time," he can tell them. "Drop the price of beer by a quarter and they'll come flooding back."
The sad thing is, he's probably right.