Gary Bettman continues to eradicate the line that he crossed a long time ago.
Bettman is supposed to be the commissioner of all of hockey. He is merely the advocate of the owners who want to push the players to increase their bottom line as much as possible.
New York Post veteran hockey columnist Larry Brooks refers to Bettman as the "Canceler-In-Chief" because that's what he does best. Every two weeks or every month, Bettman cancels a new set of games from the schedule.
Now he is at the point where there is a week to go before the last of these deadlines appears to be ahead of us. If an agreement has not been reached on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement by Jan. 11 (or made substantial progress), Bettman has said that he will cancel the season in its entirety (source: Winnipeg Free Press).
That would be a regular task for Bettman. He also canceled the 2004-05 season.
Bettman represents the interests of a small group of "hawkish" owners that want to impose draconian conditions on players.
The best interests of the NHL are not met by continuing to lock out the players and take on insulting tones during the negotiations.
While players and owners have supposedly been negotiating in the last several days, they have been engaged in this process through a federal mediator. This means that Bettman and NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr are not in the same room together (source: TSN.ca).
At some point, if Bettman really wants to get a deal done, he is going to have to sit in the same room and work out a deal with his adversary.
The NHL has tried to paint Fehr with the dishonest brush, but the veteran sports negotiator has received high marks from baseball officials for his integrity during the negotiating process (source: New York Times).
Baseball officials have never accused Fehr of being someone who would twist the truth while trying to work out a new deal (source: ESPN.com).
So, the NHL sits at the precipice once again. The season is in grave danger of being canceled.
Whatever progress the league has made on the business and television front in recent years is about to go over the cliff.
The players are well past the point of anger and the fans were there long ago.
The non-hawkish owners are rapidly moving in that direction as well, or they will as soon as the deed is done. They won't have a season.
There will be no fans in the stands, fans watching games on television and the future of the league will be very much at risk.
They will have Bettman to thank for that. They will soon conclude that he needs to pay a steep price for the brutal care he has shown their game.
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