February 23, 2012; Raleigh, NC, USA; Anaheim Ducks right wing Teemu Selanne (8) against the Carolina Hurricanes at the RBC center. The Ducks defeated the Hurricanes 3-2 in a shoot out. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-US PRESSWIRE

Why does everyone blame Gary Bettman? Does he deserve it?: Part I

September 13, 2012; New York, NY, USA; NHL commissioner Gary Bettman speaks during a press conference at the Crowne Plaza Times Square. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-US PRESSWIRE

I was searching the Web the other day and visited The Hockey News’ website. There I found an interesting article by THN writer Ken Campbell. Also, I found an article posing the same question written by Terry Frei of the Denver Post. Frei pretty much has the same opinion on the lockout as Ken Campbell. However, I also found a third article, this time from Bleacher Report, by columnist Steve Silverman. He feels a bit differently about who is to blame for this lockout. Honestly, I don’t have too high of an opinion of Bleacher Report. I’ve read some of their stuff from around their website and sometimes I finish by just shaking my head. Now, onto the debate: Is Gary Bettman to blame for this NHL lockout? This is the first part of my three part series analyzing these three articles on one of the biggest questions surrounding this NHL lockout. Here’s Part II and Part III of this series.

In my opinion, it is his fault, but also the players and the owners. The way I see it, if so many people don’t want something to happen…….it doesn’t happen. That’s just how it is. But, nope, not with this collaboration.

Campbell starts off by pointing out that Bettman is always going to be a lightning rod with any news concerning the NHL solely because of his position. Part of his job is taking heat from the players, owners, fans and media. He also points out that Bettman makes it easy for people to hate, which is very true. His explanation of why Bettman gets all the blame is because the “Blame Bettman Bandwagon” has been ready to blow for a while and the lockout has been able to allow that bubble to burst.

Bettman has been receiving a lot of hate for this lockout, obviously. Campbell points out that a lot of it is coming from people who should know better than to say the things that they have said. Unfortunately for us, one of his examples is Teemu Selanne, who recently has said in a Finnish blog that Bettman “is certainly the NHL’s most hated person.” Now, Selanne is not exactly saying that Bettman is to blame……but he is kind of implying it. His other example is Toronto Maple Leafs Defenseman John-Michael Liles, who recently sent out a tweet saying, “Just wanted to send out a big congrats to gray (sic) bettman for his 3rd consecutive work stoppage. Impressive stats for someone w no athletic skill.”

Campbell uses some specific numbers to take on both Selanne and Liles in his article:

“So, let’s see here. At last count Selanne has made almost $70 million over the course of his NHL career, which began just a couple of months before Bettman took office. At that time, the NHL had revenues of about $400 million. Now they’re at $3.3 billion. You’d have to be a complete dullard not to realize that Bettman had something to do with that and the subsequent pay raises Selanne received because of those increases. And Liles? Please. Here’s a guy who has made almost $20 million over the course of his career and last year signed a four-year deal worth $15.5 million. Not bad for a guy who has had no idea what it’s like to be a plus player the past four seasons.”

He’s got a point you two. He also goes on to say, about the big contracts, that it has been very common to blame the NHL and the owners on the top-heavy, long-term contracts that have become a huge topic in these CBA talks. Campbell follows that by saying:

“Well, if anyone knows of a player out there who turned one of those deals down for the good of the game, please let us know. . And to blame Bettman for those deals is ridiculous. The reality is that Bettman has hated those legal circumventions of the collective bargaining agreement since Day 1 and it was the owners of the teams who couldn’t help themselves. But he also knows that if he had ever tried to do anything to prevent teams from signing them, the players would have rightly accused the owners of collusion.”

My favorite part of his whole article is when he calls out guys who have yet to even secure spot’s in the NHL that have been bashing Bettman. His three examples are Joe Morrow, who just finished his career in juniors with the Portland Winterhawks, Connor Carrick, who just started his junior career with the Plymouth Whalers, and Jason Zucker, who played his first 6 career NHL games this past year with the Minnesota Wild. They have the right to say whatever they want, but sometimes they just need keep quiet.

Campbell finishes his article by pointing out that a lot of people blame him for the “failed” experiment in the Sunbelt expansion. However, he points out that only two southern cities have received NHL franchises since Bettman has become the commissioner in 1993, Nashville and Atlanta. Tampa Bay and San Jose were already in the league and the Minnesota North Stars relocated to Dallas before he was hired. The Florida Panthers were already admitted into the league and the same goes for our Mighty Ducks of Anaheim. He does accept that Bettman didn’t try very hard to stop franchise relocation’s to Carolina, Phoenix and Denver, but how much could he really have done to stop them?

His closing statement was pretty short and sweet:

“But Bettman largely gets the blame. He should be used to it by now. After all, doing your job for the real people who deserve the blame does have its downsides.”

I’ll have part two of this series posted later this week and will try finish this series by the end of the weekend. But, no guarantees. Just like the lockout negotiations!

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Tags: Connor Carrick Gary Bettman Jason Zucker Joe Morrow John-Michael Liles Lockout NHL Teemu Selanne

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