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Bettman Is The Problem

from Jack Todd at the Montreal Gazette,

Let’s face the truth, folks: Gary Bettman has become hockey’s worst enemy.

Bettman is now the author of three lockouts and the disastrous expansion into the Sun Belt, egomaniac, a man who would rather destroy the National Hockey League than form a workable partnership with the players. Under his watch, the NHL has already lost more games to labour disruptions than the three other major North American team sports combined — with no end in sight.

This is why we are staring into the face of a winter without NHL hockey. Because Bettman, a pint-sized Grinch with a pea-sized heart, has no passion for the game. He does not like or respect the players, he has no use for the journalists who cover the game, he doesn’t care a fig for the thousands or tens of thousands of people who have lost their jobs or had their hours reduced because of the Bettman lockout.

Above all, Gary Bettman has nothing but contempt for the millions of fans who provide the financial engine that drives the game. Bettman talks about “our wonderful fans” but what he means is “the suckers who keep buying tickets, no matter how badly they are treated.”

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Filed in: NHL Talk, NHLPA, | KK Hockey | Permalink
  Tags: gary+bettman

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Jack Todd talks about “contempt”.  Funny, this coming from a traitor to his native country and general piece of shit!

Posted by timbits on 11/25/12 at 10:41 PM ET

bezukov's avatar

I’m not sure desertion and treason are the same thing… nor does it have anything to due with the quality or validity of his commentary.  I think he’s exactly right on Bettman.

Posted by bezukov from the kids are alright. on 11/26/12 at 12:57 AM ET

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While I’ve always thought Bettman got a lot of undeserved flack, particularly for the “Southern Strategy” that was in the works while he was at the NBA, and while I think part of Fehr’s strategy is to create a gigantic bogeyman for the players to rally around in the hopes they won’t notice his own strategy costs the vast majority of them money they’ll never get back in the hopes that the Ovechkins, Crosby’s and Suters get to keep every red cent (which isn’t happening either), Todd’s right that it’s almost certainly time for GB to get the Goodenow treatment.

For one thing, his very presence has become poisonous to the negotiating process. And not just this negotiating process. ANY NHL/NHLPA joint anything of any kind. Now, the same could be said of Fehr, but Fehr hasn’t expressed any desire to remain past these negotiations, nor does he have a ready-in-waiting successor. Bettman has two—Collins and Daly—and a number of governors are qualified and capable of doing his job on an interim basis until someone more permanent can be hired.

The second thing that has always stuck with me is a Bruce Garrioch interview with 3 (anonymous) governors, described as, of all things hawks. All 3 wanted the revenue situation Bettman’s shooting for. All 3 wanted back-diving deals gone. And all three said arbitration related-changes, free agency eligibility, rookie contract lengths, and even term limits “mean little to nothing” to them as elements of the next CBA.

If that’s the case, Bettman’s being a hardass about a pet project nobody but him on the NHL side gives a fridge about. Correction: Bettman’s being a hardass about a pet project nobody but him on the NHL side gives a fridge about OTHER than the Coyotes.

Considering those contract issues mean, probably, more to the players than the revenue split and nothing to the governors, his intransigence on an issue he shouldn’t care about is tremendously destructive to the process, as is that smug, pompous look on his face.

Posted by larry on 11/26/12 at 01:03 AM ET

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For one thing, his very presence has become poisonous to the negotiating process.

That’s true, but it’s why the NHLPA is being stupid.  They are allowing personal animus to cloud their position.

This is a big, big money deal.  It’s way too important to allow sideshow stuff to influence to the degree it pretty obviously has on the players side.

All 3 wanted the revenue situation Bettman’s shooting for. All 3 wanted back-diving deals gone. And all three said arbitration related-changes, free agency eligibility, rookie contract lengths, and even term limits “mean little to nothing” to them as elements of the next CBA.

I think there are 5 NHL teams that desperately want a, b and c.  Then there are 5 NHL teams who desperately want x, y, and z.  Then there are 5 teams that want a, y, and c.  Then there are 5 teams who want x, a and z.  Then there are 5 teams that want x, a and b.  Then there are 5 teams that want a, b, c, x, y and z.

I think all of the teams want the revenue share at 50-50 with very limited ‘extra money’ in the form of ‘make whole’.  That’s more money to all of their bottom lines.

The rest of the stuff?  Hard to say.  As you go down that list I’d imagine it drops off from the 100% support of 50-50 fairly quickly.

Still, the players aren’t willing to go to 50-50 without some pretty huge amounts of ‘extra money’, the vast majority of which will go to the guys already making 6+ mil a year. 

If I were Bettman, I’d offer the following.  100% make whole on all contracts with an AAV under 3 million dollars.  Everyone over 3 million dollars has to take it in the stove pipe.  I might slide that 3 mil up or down to nail the sweet spot on the player side.  You want the cutoff to protect 70% of players, so wherever that is, that’s where the number needs to be.

Heck, I might say all contracts under 3 mil AAV are eternally exempted from escrow.  All escrow payments come out of the ‘10%ers’, or some other similarly attachable phraseology, naming the top earning players int he NHL.

Class warfare works.  We’ve seen this in real life.  If it was done to the NHLPA they’d turn on each other faster than you would believe.

Posted by HockeyinHD on 11/26/12 at 06:30 AM ET

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Actually, after a moment’s thought I think you could stage escrow like the tax code is staged.  A 50% escrow share at 3-4 mil, a 75% escrow share at 4-5 mil, a 100% escrow share at 5-6 mil, a 125% escrow share at 6-7 mil, and a 150% escrow share at 7+.

You’d obviously have to jigger with the numbers to get the lines to intersect, but that kind of plan would put some downward pressure on salaries, discourage back-diving deals (because their escrow payments were based on AAV not salary… if the AAV was 6 mil and their salary was 3, they’d be losing most of that salary to escrow), stuff like that.

Posted by HockeyinHD on 11/26/12 at 06:46 AM ET

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Actually, after a moment’s thought I think you could stage escrow like the tax code is staged.  A 50% escrow share at 3-4 mil, a 75% escrow share at 4-5 mil, a 100% escrow share at 5-6 mil, a 125% escrow share at 6-7 mil, and a 150% escrow share at 7+.

This makes sense considering there is already dissension in the PA over big contract players being the real hold up with the make whole!

Posted by timbits on 11/26/12 at 10:26 AM ET

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Bettman isn’t paid to care about the league.  He is paid to represent the owners.  Everything else is simply window dressing.  The owners tell him what to do. 

The opposite is true for the players.  They are told what to do by Fehr.  That is until they finally realize that they will never make up the cash that is being flushed down the toilet on a weekly basis.  They are forfeiting a lot for a bunch of kids that will be in the NHL a few years from now. 

Honorable or stupid? 

Posted by Jack McFly on 11/26/12 at 11:59 AM ET

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The opposite is true for the players.  They are told what to do by Fehr.

I don’t think that is true.  I think the high-profile guys have a lot on the line in this CBA, and they are working with Fehr to preserve as many of their millions as they can.

I just think the players are being idiots about it, and Fehr’s not a guy to worry about a negotiation fight.

Posted by HockeyinHD on 11/26/12 at 12:15 PM ET

redxblack's avatar

Fehr serves at the pleasure of the players. The NHLPA is a democratic institution. That charge is wholly without merit.

I find it funny that the specter of “class warfare” arises whenever employees try not to get screwed over, but never when the employer is screwing over the employee. Is that not class warfare, too?

Posted by redxblack from Akron Ohio on 11/26/12 at 12:18 PM ET

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Fehr serves at the pleasure of the players. The NHLPA is a democratic institution. That charge is wholly without merit.

It’s not exactly democratic.  It’s not like every (or even any) of the NHL’s proposals have been put up to a vote.  The negotiating committee has rejected them. 

I find it funny that the specter of “class warfare” arises whenever employees try not to get screwed over, but never when the employer is screwing over the employee. Is that not class warfare, too?

Nah, not in the way the term is used.  Class warfare is used when you pit two (or more) groups of people against each other where the only separation between them is ‘class’.  It’s a fairly well-proven means of splitting up constituencies by confusing them regarding the actual issues.

Labor-management stuff isn’t class based at all, it’s relationship-driven.  Yes, by and large owners and players occupy two distinct financial ‘classes’, but that difference isn’t the point of contention.  It’s pure, unadulterated greed.

What I’m talking about is a thought exercise using the principles of class warfare to turn the players against each other.

 

Posted by HockeyinHD on 11/26/12 at 12:25 PM ET

redxblack's avatar

Labor-management stuff isn’t class based at all, it’s relationship-driven. 

And what is that relationship but a meeting of the REALLY wealthy and the less wealthy classes? And when they’re fighting over a split of a pile of money, and you have commentators saying “these greedy players should look at who signs their paycheck and fall in line” - that’s class warfare. I’m not disagreeing that class conflict splits constituencies. I’m pointing out that it is rarely invoked as a term with the exception of when the economically weaker become aware of their subordinate position and resist. In the Machiavellian way you’re advising Bettman, I think you’re underestimating the resolve of the PA to band together. The players (for the most part) are paid by market forces and merit. I don’t see the Paul Martins begrudging the Sid Crosbys for their paycheck. Making divisive overtures towards the players would seem pretty obvious to the PA. I doubt they’d be as fast to sell each other out if they haven’t so far.

Posted by redxblack from Akron Ohio on 11/26/12 at 01:00 PM ET

J.J. from Kansas's avatar

While asking the players to sell out the high-earners might work as an effective tool for the owners to sow discord, the actual practice of doing that would be harmful to the NHL.

Does anybody go to games to see Tyler Kennedy play 18 minutes per night? Dan Cleary?

Player salaries are dragged up by the value of the superstars. Disenfranchising the 10% of players who drive a much higher percentage of the gate is a good way to ensure the gate remains lower.

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 11/26/12 at 01:19 PM ET

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And what is that relationship but a meeting of the REALLY wealthy and the less wealthy classes?

Well yeah.  Like I said, there is a class difference, it’s just that the class difference isn’t the de facto reason for the conflict.

Hell, if class warfare was any kind of a factor in this situation it would be directed at the players, not by them.  By and large the players have an astoundingly superior financial position in the NHL relative to the owners.

While asking the players to sell out the high-earners might work as an effective tool for the owners to sow discord, the actual practice of doing that would be harmful to the NHL.

More or less harmful than not playing at all?

Player salaries are dragged up by the value of the superstars.

Not in a capped league they aren’t.  The more money that goes to superstars the less there is to everyone else.

Disenfranchising the 10% of players who drive a much higher percentage of the gate is a good way to ensure the gate remains lower.

How?

Posted by HockeyinHD on 11/26/12 at 01:35 PM ET

J.J. from Kansas's avatar

More or less harmful than not playing at all?

That’s a false choice.

Not in a capped league they aren’t.  The more money that goes to superstars the less there is to everyone else.

Even a capped league created an individual floor that is perhaps much higher than a fringe 4th-liner brings in value to the team.  Do you think Chay Genoway could earn $550K in Europe?

How?

Disenfranchised players aren’t as likely to stick around. How many Russians do you think return from the KHL under your proposal? $9M is a lot to pay Alex Ovechkin, but do you think the Capitals are actually coming out the other side better off for not having Ovie in their lineup?

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 11/26/12 at 01:45 PM ET

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Personally I don’t care about any of them, owners or players.  I enjoy watching NHL hockey.  I have never cared to listen / watch player or owner interviews.  They mostly robots spitting the company line.

The players are caught between a the rock and hard place.  The question is, for them, will they ever make up the money being pissed down the toilet.  To me it seems that they will not.  They knew going into this that they were going to lose, it was just a matter of how much.  The owners have more money, more time and no expiration date on their careers.

Posted by Jack McFly on 11/26/12 at 01:45 PM ET

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I’m now at a point where I am ready to give up. I don’t care about 50/50 because I’m giving each side a full 100% of nothing. I’ve followed this sport for over 40 years. I’ve had season tickets in 5 teams in 3 cities and have too many authentic jerseys of all types to ever wear. I’ve attended Stanley Cups, Olympics, Summit Series, Canada Cup, World Cups and All-Star games, I’ve consumed this product for all it’s worth and then some. Not to mention Memorial Cups, Final 4s and plenty of Junior games to boot, but I think this may be it. I can’t be held hostage anymore, this is supposed to be entertainment and it is just more frustration. I keep reading half the debate in the comments section and even participate far too often, but it just sickens me at this point.

I don’t need it and I’m looking for a way out. After the first lockout I dropped my season tickets in favor of small game plans (20 games, 10 games, occasionally a suite with a group of friends). After the last lockout, I went to StubHub, maybe a Christmas or birthday gift and Center Ice for my hockey fix.  I still kept up with the annual jersey and road trips to games, but I’m done with that too now.  The last round of “negotiations” has proven to me that this is an all or nothing game that is being played. I understand that if one side doesn’t get 100% of what they want they are just going to go home and cause more damage. There was never any point in negotiating.  Well good luck,  I’m all or nothing for the foreseable future too. They can all have nothing. I’m going to waste my time on productive things like work and getting on the ice beyond just the weekly games.

Posted by hockey1919 from mid-atlantic on 11/26/12 at 02:06 PM ET

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That’s a false choice.

Oh?

Seems like comparing a practice that would likely accelerate an agreement to a strategy that encourages stalemate is rather different than a false choice.

Even a capped league created an individual floor that is perhaps much higher than a fringe 4th-liner brings in value to the team.  Do you think Chay Genoway could earn $550K in Europe?

No.  Then again, having multiple players making 6+ mil a year certainly increases the odds someone will be making 550k for a team, right?

Disenfranchised players aren’t as likely to stick around.

Lets find out.  How many players left the NHL after 2004?

Posted by HockeyinHD on 11/26/12 at 03:22 PM ET

J.J. from Kansas's avatar

Seems like comparing a practice that would likely accelerate an agreement to a strategy that encourages stalemate is rather different than a false choice.

That depends. Do you think the stalemate will last forever if the owners choose not to do this?

Then again, having multiple players making 6+ mil a year certainly increases the odds someone will be making 550k for a team, right?

What increases the odds that somebody will be making $550K is the CBA that the wealthy players and the fringe players all signed alike which guaranteed a league minimum.  If you set a minimum, there are some people who are going to be paid that.

Although I’m looking forward to your analysis which shows that no cap-floor teams have players with salaries that low, because the likelihood of people making the minimum is driven by multiple large contracts.

How many players left the NHL after 2004?

About 240.

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 11/26/12 at 03:48 PM ET

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That’s true, but it’s why the NHLPA is being stupid.  They are allowing personal animus to cloud their position.

Or why Fehr’s being smart. This anger unifies them, increases his bargaining power (how much is up for debate).

Problem is, I don’t know where Fehr’s priorities are, so I can’t say if he’s used this wisely.

If his goal is to maximize earnings for the PA, that ship sailed. He had his chance in the middle of October and failed miserably.

If his goal is to maximize earnings for the top 1%ers at the expense of the 99, he hasn’t quite failed yet.

And if his goal is to start a war, he’s well on his way.

I think there are 5 NHL teams that desperately want a, b and c.  Then there are 5 NHL teams who desperately want x, y, and z.  Then there are 5 teams that want a, y, and c.  Then there are 5 teams who want x, a and z.  Then there are 5 teams that want x, a and b.  Then there are 5 teams that want a, b, c, x, y and z.

It’s difficult to say. I would assume everybody but the Flyers, the Rangers, maybe the Sabers, and the Red Wings don’t like the back-diving retirement deals. In some cases, it may be for ideological reasons (Toronto). In others, they’re not liquid enough to withstand the first couple years without posting losses (Nashville). In still others, they might just think they’re an irresponsible risk (historically, Shero, though Crosby’s new deal kinda sort does that, but not really). And in even STILL others, they cannot offer these increasingly common deals and risk losing tremendously valuable assets down the road because they’re expected (Islanders).

On that issue, I understand far more why the NHL would want something done than why the players would oppose it (every dollar Brad Richards exceeds his cap number in compensation gets taxed out of the rest of the players’ pockets).

But the rookie contract length, arbitration change crap? These are all issues to address the lack of a “second contract.” That’s all Brian Burke and maybe just Brian Burke and Bettman. He’s the only person I’ve ever seen complain about the “second contract”. I’ve seen him complain about it a lot. And he’s been in negotiation meetings, which means he’s got Bettman’s ear. If a season were to be flushed not because Burke can’t get the brass on the titanic covered with exactly the right coat of gloss, it’d be a damned shame.

If I were Bettman, I’d offer the following.  100% make whole on all contracts with an AAV under 3 million dollars.  Everyone over 3 million dollars has to take it in the stove pipe.  I might slide that 3 mil up or down to nail the sweet spot on the player side.  You want the cutoff to protect 70% of players, so wherever that is, that’s where the number needs to be.

I think that would backfire badly. Remember, the guys at the top of the payscale are the locker room leaders of the guys at the bottom (there are some Ville Leino’s too, but that’s sort of the exception). They’re the guys who are more responsible than most for any playoff success the little guys see in their career. The pluggers aren’t selling them out in an obvious manner like this. You would see an avalanche pile if Bettman tried that. Worse than now.

Posted by larry on 11/26/12 at 04:47 PM ET

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Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.

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