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?
So I started this series out with Ken Campbell’s article where he kind of attacked the people who went after Bettman as the reason for yet another lockout. He didn’t specifically say who he though deserves the blame, but he did make a point about the recent long-term contracts worth big money, the players are the ones taking these ridiculous offers and there isn’t a single player around who wouldn’t take one of those.
Onto today’s article from Terry Frei of the Denver Post. This article actually tries to pin some of the blame elsewhere. But who?
Well, to start, I’ll just tell the story that he tells:
“In November 2004, in the early stages of a lockout that scrubbed a season, I interviewed NHL commissioner Gary Bettman in his New York office. Underscoring that this business wasn’t operating as usual, even on a Monday afternoon, the executive who sometimes seems as if he came out of the womb in a dark suit and tie was dressed casually, in a short-sleeve sports shirt.
Bettman emphasized that the NHL Players’ Association didn’t grasp the league’s determination.
“I’ve had a car wreck, OK?” he said. “I want to negotiate over a new car and they want to sell me a new set of tires for the one that was wrecked.”"
Sounds like a pretty decent analogy. At the end of the last lockout, Frei puts it that the league pretty much imposed salary rollbacks and a hard salary cap system tied to revenues and adjusted annually. The terms were a much sweeter deal for the league. Frei uses Bettman’s first analogy to analyze the end of that lockout:
“The owners got that new Ferrari and were able to annually trade it in for next year’s model. Now they’re coming off like silver-spoon brats, saying that new car isn’t good enough because the Manhattan Beach valet parking attendant mentioned there was a hotter vehicle in the lot.”
After that, Frei really picks a side. He goes on by talking about how the NFL and NBA recently agreed to new collective bargaining agreements. However, with the NHL’s last CBA, revenues increased significantly that led to the cap ceiling rising from $39 million to $64 million. Frei believes the owners thought their cut wasn’t high enough and the concessions made by the NHLPA was not enough.
He commented again on the long-term contracts dealt out under the last CBA, including Ryan Suter’s and Zach Parise’s with the Minnesota Wild, and how they worked within a tweaked system. He say’s, “Minnesota wasn’t coerced into offering them.”
He wraps up his argument kind of the same way Campbell does, by defending Gary Bettman and the NHL. He uses the recent comments made by the Detroit Red Wings’ VP Jim Devellano as an example of how during these lockouts, Bettman and the league offices have “all but gagged” team team owners and officials, which allowed the league to do all the talking, at least publicly, he adds. He applauds this strategy by saying that it discourages “inflammatory” remarks coming from anywhere besides New York and allows for a public image of league solidarity. However, he does add that this allows individual owners to dodge accountability.
I can’t help but feel like Frei was reading my mind. I’ve always been on the side of the players and these points he made are precisely the reason why. For example, Philadelphia Flyers’ well-known owner Ed Snider offered about three different contracts of 10+ years and large sums of money, yet when CBA talks first began, he was one of the owners who championed the idea of putting a 5-year ceiling on free agent contracts. How stupid is that??? And I’m a Flyers fan!!! I understand that the owners want to win as much as the players do, but don’t go doing stuff like that and then blame the players for being too greedy. You guys made those huge offers….don’t blame them for accepting them.
Okay, that’s it for this post. The final part of the series will probably be up either Friday or Sunday. Until then, “Keep Calm and Pray for Hockey!!!”