Luke Waltons Forehead presented by the Sports Dude.

Monday, February 21, 2005 at 9:53 AM

Bend it like Bettman.

Well, it is finally over? I missed an exciting week last week, it appears, but Bettman finally cancelled the NHL season. Like putting a sick pet out of its misery, he finally called the whole thing off. Now, even days later, I hear the sides were not as close as we all thought. For what it is worth I wish the words “lock out” and hockey were erased from my memory because I am sick of hearing them. It dragged out for too long, it was a dirty little day time soap opera and, in the end, we got what we all knew was coming – the first North American sport to lose an entire season due to labor strife. And the more and more I listen to sports radio stations, the more and more I hear it may last almost two seasons. Scary thing is, I am not sure if the NHL can even survive this one, let alone two.

Now, being a non-hockey fan, I look at it like this – the players and the union are at fault. That has been my opinion since day one and I am going to stick by my guns. You can say what you want about Bettman, but what it comes down to is this – representation. Forget all the dumb rule changes the guy instituted, forget the expansion in dumb markets and look at this – how did he represent the owners compared to how Goodenow represented the players? Bettman did a better job. All along it was clear hockey owners wanted a cap and felt they needed one to survive. Bettman never caved, never folded and never backed down. Call it being stubborn, call it arrogance, call it what you will, but I will call it a business man protecting his business, nothing more, nothing less. Everyone knows that if Goodenow would have taken a poll that the majority of the players would have accepted the cap, it was just his ego that got in the way. He didn’t want to be the one to lose, he didn’t want to be the one to break, and he didn’t want to go back on the word “never”. Well, like the old cliché goes, “never say never”. By the time Goodenow realized that it was cap or bust it was too late. His ego got in the way in these negotiations and ruined any chance at a hockey season, period. Blame it on Goodenow, not Bettman. Bettman represented the owners perfectly, to a “T” and never waned because he knew hockey would not survive without the cap. Goodenow didn’t even come close to representing the players; he was just representing his ego.

Secondly, don’t even get me started on the concessions the players made to get this deal done. 24% roll backs, kick backs, whatever! That may solve it up front, but what about a couple years from now when you all get greedy again? Oh, you’ll just go on strike again, that’s what. It is ridiculous to even think what goes through the minds of these unions sometimes, but that is something that I could bitch about all day, so let us get back to hockey. There are actually owners out there, right now, who are making money by there not being a season. How screwed up is that? The game was eating itself alive quicker than you can say the word “chew” and it had to stop. Whether people around here in “hockeytown” want to admit it or not, but the Red Wings were right at the heart of it. They were the Yankees of the NHL, the only difference being that in baseball there is a revenue sharing system, so Steinbrenner pays for his greed. There was nothing like that in hockey, so the Wings could go unchecked and be as careless as they chose. They helped drive the salaries up, the ticket prices up, the game was dying. And, another fact that hockey fans don’t want to hear, is it is NOT A POPULAR SPORT!!!! It doesn’t have the fan base to survive this type of bleeding, it doesn’t even have enough revenue to share! Of the four majors, hockey is #4 behind football, baseball and basketball – and that #4 ranking is even slipping away. Whether people like it or not, a cap is the only way to stop the bleeding and the sooner someone beats it into Goodenow’s head that $42 million dollars in MORE THAN ENOUGH for a hockey team then all you hockey lovers can get your damn hockey back, and I can have something on my TV again at night to help me fall asleep!

Look, Bettman is not at fault for this lock out, he really is not. He may have expanded to shitty cities and made some stupid rule changes, but in defending the owners he did a remarkable job. He is right, hockey won’t survive without the cap, roll backs are just a temporary band aid, and until Goodenow is removed or killed then the players will continue to be at fault. Goodenow gets the blame in my book, he misrepresented the players, let down the fans and caused this lock out more than Bettman. $42 million was in his face and he should have taken it and ran, because that was more generous than the owners needed to be.

Look, like I said earlier, hockey is losing its hold on that #4 spot to NASCAR, golf, shit even poker! The point is, the players need to realize enough is enough – the sport, as it stands today, is not in a place where it can afford to pay $10 million dollar salaries. There is not enough TV money, there is not enough revenue, and quite frankly there are not enough fans. Do you really think people in Florida right now are missing hockey? If you answered yes, you must be blind like Goodenow. The point is, hockey is losing ground a little more each day, and each day another fan walks away to something else. The problem is, when there aren’t that many to begin with, how can you really afford to let any walk away. The sports dude.

Anonymous Rob V. said...

There's plenty of blame to spread around, and Goodenow definitely deserves his fair share. However, Bettman deserves to have some fingers wagging in his direction, too.

Bettman is in a no-lose bargaining position, and he knows it. But that doesn't excuse his lack of leadership, or his insistance on trying to turn hockey (a game I love) into something that it isn't (a game that you'll love).

Look at the average salary and team payroll when Bettman became commish. Look at the average salary and team payroll now. They've skyrocketed with Gary at the helm. Why? Because he expanded into a bunch of non-viable markets, and the owners, in all their wisdom, began paying players baseball-sized contracts in a sport that is decidedly lacking in baseball sized revenue.

Heck, if you want to point a finger at an NHL franchise owned by a local Detroiter, I'd suggest you look at the Hurricanes rather than the Red Wings. After all, it was Karmonos who gave Federov the offer sheet that shattered the league salary structure in 1997.

I agree that Goodenow is a clown, but don't give Bettman a free pass.  

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