Dear Commissioner Bettman,
Ever hear of "The Rule of Three?"
It's a principle that suggests when things come in threes, they are inherently funnier, more satisfying, or more effective than other numbers of things.
A hat trick is one of these things. It is absolutely more satisfying and more effective. An undeniably definitive moment in the life of a National Hockey League player.
But what would you know about that?
You've never played a single second in the NHL. Never taken a faceoff. Never blocked a shot. Never thrown yourself in front of a 100 mile per hour slap shot. Never taken a punch in the kisser while coming to the aid of a defenseless teammate.
But remarkably, even without lacing up the skates for a single game, you're on the verge of completing a hat trick. And it would be the worst one in the history of the sport.
I'm referring to what would be the third lockout of your administration. Let's just take a quick look back at the first two for old times sake, OK?
Lockout No. 1 happened on the heels of a dramatic seven-game Stanley Cup Finals in 1994. Remember what you said? "Mark Messier, come get the Stanley Cup." The Rangers, located smack dab in the middle of the biggest media market in the entire league, finally hoisted the hardware after 54 years of heartache.
Here's what Sports Illustrated thought of the NHL at the time.
And yet, games didn't start the next season until January, 1995. Way to completely crush the momentum, Gary!
Your second lockout also happened after an incredible seven-game series, that time between the Calgary Flames and Tampa Bay Lightning in 2004. And when the Bolts brought Stanley home, it showed that your expansion model really worked, especially in the "Sun Belt."
So what did you do after that point was proven? Shut the league down and miss the next season entirely. Unreal.
Now here we are again, seven years later, on the verge of another shutdown.
If you make your version of The Rule of Three happen, if you complete the hat trick, you will turn off legions of hockey fans all over the world. You will show that the owners' greed rules the day. And you will jeopardize the way people make a living.
I'm not just referring to the players. It's the people who work the ticket windows, the folks who serve the food at the concession stands, bars and restaurants surrounding the arenas that depend on the game-night traffic for their survival. Not the greed mongers you represent. They're only interest at this point is to wring every last nickel and dime out of the players' pockets.
Jeff Z. Klein at the New York Times recently wrote:
With less than a month before the current collective bargaining agreement expires, Commissioner Gary Bettman has made it clear that he will lock out the players unless the union accepts a big pay cut — not necessarily the 24 percent cut the owners proposed. But a 12 percent cut would surely be acceptable to them, because that would leave the owners and the players at a 50-50 split of revenue — exactly what the N.F.L. and the N.B.A. owners wrested from their players after lockouts in 2011.
You want the players to accept a salary rollback? The employees who toil in sweat and blood for your concern? Well then, perhaps in good faith, you should take a rollback as well. After all, you do make quite a bit of cash. This from Chris Botta at SportsBusinessDaily.com:
At more than $7.98 million, Bettman’s salary has more than doubled since the lockout that canceled the NHL’s 2004-05 season. In that year, he made $3.7 million.
So now that we know how much you've gained, and what so many people stand to lose if there's another lockout, there's something you must understand.
September 15th is your judgement day. The day when the current Collective Bargaining Agreement expires. If there is no deal in place between the players and the owners, you'll have to deal with a train wreck.
Are you prepared for the unrelenting backlash you'll undoubtedly receive from countless fans and media?
Are you prepared to put the Winter Classic—the league's regular season showcase event—in jeopardy?
Are you prepared to go dark only 18 months after inking a 10-year, $2 billion TV deal?
Then by all means, invoke your dreaded version of The Rule of Three. Complete your hat trick. But if you do so, it will be a complete and utter disaster.
And if I were a betting man, Mr. Bettman, I'd take those odds any day of the week.