Fire Gary Bettman: The latest on the NHL lockout

By Jacob Greenberg

Earlier this week, the NHL officially announced what all hockey fans had unofficially known and dreaded would happen for the past weeks: a full cancellation of all league games through November. The lockout, now six weeks old, seems irreparably stalemated and is beginning to resemble the 2004 work stoppage that cost fans and players an entire season. Gary Bettman, who is proudly entrenched in his fourth labor dispute in 20 years as commissioner, is clearly to blame. The owners and the commissioner would have us believe that they are amicably negotiating with the selfish players in an effort to save North America’s most popular sport. They support this comically ludicrous claim with the “compromise” they proposed two weeks ago. Aimed at saving an 82-game schedule, the proposal not so generously offered the players a fifty-fifty split of league revenue. What the league hasn’t talked about publically are the more insidious details behind the CBA lingo. In his latest attempt to undermine workers’ rights, Gar-Bear has asked the players to waive their right to arbitration, an invaluable tool in contract negotiation for players in their entry-level contracts. The caring commissioner has also asked that unrestricted free agency (UFA) be limited to players after their tenth season in the league. According to the union, the average NHL career is only 5.62 seasons. Only elite players make it past arbitration and lengthy entry- level contracts to reap the fruit of UFA. Coupled with a complete lack of any attempt to further ensure player safety with concussion protocol in their proposal, the league’s stance is pretty clear. Gary the Malevolent doesn’t care about players’ health, career viability or financial stability. If this weren’t enough, the league still insists on indoctrinating loyal fans with the same old union bashing rhetoric. The billionaires are claiming that the millionaires (the lucky players who don’t retire too young and are unable to work post league due to chronic brain injury) are being selfish and stubborn. However, there’s reason to believe that the NHL has no intention of creating a compromise to fairly ameliorate Garry’s latest mess. The commissioner, in his unlimited wisdom and respect for the game and its fans, hired Bob Batterman as the league’s chief counsel in the labor disputes. Batterman, a self-proclaimed union buster and corporate friend, recently represented the NFL owners in their referee lockout. If you recall, it took a national disgrace to end that dispute, with the Green Bay Packers being robbed of a win on a last second umpire error on national television. It was later revealed that Batterman counseled the owners to lockout the referees when it would only have cost each team $100k to settle. Team Bettman-Batterman’s hard line stance has already cost the NHL an 82 game season, and reports have surfaced that later this week the league will announce the cancellation of the Winter Classic, which has rapidly become a national gem. Batterman’s employment is evidence that Bettman has no intention of settling this stoppage anytime soon. Hockey fans have already lost a full season under Bettman’s reign. A second is in jeopardy, and even if the sides settle, who knows what will happen when that CBA expires in seven years. It’s time for Gary to go. refresh –>