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Columnist: Players fighting Bettman more than anything

Oct 1, 2012, 3:45 PM EDT

Gary Bettman Getty Images

Wayne Gretzky might still be optimistic that the NHL season can be saved, but Denver Post columnist Adrian Dater is almost certain it won’t be.

Why so negative?

Dater argues that, for the players, this lockout is about more than money. This time, it’s personal. And the person it’s about is NHL commissioner Gary Bettman.

This is a sad story with no winners, but the tagline of the story is this: the players in the NHL are sick and tired of Gary Bettman, and they will sacrifice their greater financial good to drive this man out of their game. Or, if not drive him out of the game, at least be able to say to themselves “That bleeping bleep didn’t push us around this time.”

That’s how much they hate him right now.

It really has come to this awful juncture, an irreconcilable difference in the minds of the players that they must defeat Bettman at all costs. I have spent the last couple months or so in regular contact with a wide number of players, and this is what it has come down to – sadly.

Furthering Dater’s point, the players haven’t exactly hidden their disdain for the commissioner.

“Gary’s pretty adamant about his third lockout of his tenure,” Zach Parise said in August.

“We’ve all heard that Gary thinks the fans don’t matter,” said Danny Briere.

Doesn’t get much more personal than first names.

The last lockout was personal, too.

“Gary Bettman and (former NHLPA head) Bob Goodenow hated each other,” veteran agent Steve Bartlett told the Edmonton Journal recently.

And while there may not be the same level of animosity between Bettman and current union head Donald Fehr – something Bartlett saw as reason for optimism this time – you have to wonder if the players would be more willing to compromise if the commissioner wasn’t the same guy as the last time.

Related: Bettman should consider stepping away from talks

  1. jimw81 - Oct 1, 2012 at 3:53 PM

    can you say collusion?–collusion-question-goes-right-to-the-heart-of-the-nhl-lockout.html

    “When Major League Baseball lost those collusion cases, its CBA included this key line: “Players shall not act in concert with other players and clubs shall not act in concert with other clubs.” The NHL’s last CBA included no such language. It also said teams had the right to match the offer sheets their RFAs signed, and if they didn’t, they could receive compensation in the form of draft picks – the higher the salary, the higher the price in picks.

    The NHL could argue that offer sheets were rare not because of an unwritten rule but because of the written rules, which were agreed upon by both sides in bargaining. Teams often felt an offer sheet would be futile, because the other team would match, or that it wouldn’t be worth the cost, because it would require a price so high the other team wouldn’t match and would result in the loss of as many as four first-round draft picks.

    The league could point out that there were still some offer sheets, not none, and that RFAs signed lucrative contract after lucrative contract even without the help of offer sheets.

    Finally, the league could allege that collusion works the other way, too. Do agents manipulate the market to make sure their clients receive the highest prices? Did Zach Parise and Ryan Suter work together as unrestricted free agents this summer when they signed matching 13-year, $98 million deals with the Minnesota Wild?

    Proving collusion is as difficult as proving other slippery, shadowy offenses, like tampering. But here is the potential problem for the NHL: If anyone could do it, it would be the Fehr brothers, and if anyone would try, it might be the NHLPA. Since Don Fehr took over as executive director, the NHLPA has been unafraid to challenge the league, even if the challenge is unprecedented or seems like a long shot. See the realignment battle. See the Alberta and Quebec court cases.

    The NHLPA could argue that there doesn’t need to be specific language in the CBA barring clubs from acting in concert. Free agency implies that a individual player is free to deal with individual teams, and all you need is antitrust law to keep two or more teams from ganging up to set prices.

    The union could ask some hard questions: If the written rules in the CBA are enough, why would anyone need an unwritten rule, too? Did an unwritten rule make offer sheets even more rare than they would have been otherwise? “

    • hockeyflow33 - Oct 1, 2012 at 4:41 PM

      You continue to post this garbage but the major sports leagues are exempt from Sherman Anti-Trust law

      • chiadam - Oct 1, 2012 at 5:06 PM

        They’re exempt because the NHLPA is a union. If the union decertifies, like the NFLPA did, thar protection is gone and suits can be filed.

      • chicagobtech - Oct 1, 2012 at 5:18 PM

        In addition to chiadam’s labor union exception post, only the MLB has a specific legal protection. The NFL lost theirs after the Supreme Court ruled the NFL consisted of a cartel of 32 independant businesses in the American Needle, Inc. vs NFL case.

      • furkmyster - Oct 1, 2012 at 5:56 PM

        The day Fehr decertifies the union to allow the lawsuits to begin, like the NFLPA did, is the day the NHL season is done for, and come September 2013 replacement players will be suiting up.

  2. dannythebisforbeast - Oct 1, 2012 at 4:11 PM

    Judging by the slowdown in comments in these articles Bettman has succeeded in making hockey irrelevant again

  3. x50cal - Oct 1, 2012 at 5:20 PM


  4. adlent - Oct 1, 2012 at 5:33 PM

    Bettman isn’t really going anywhere, so by making this personal you’re really only screwing over the fans who enjoy hockey and the people and businesses that rely on it being played.

    That said, the NHL is still demanding too much.

  5. revansrevenant - Oct 1, 2012 at 5:40 PM

    And now, to lighten the mood, the best song of the year. Enjoy:

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