If there were ever words of little comfort in times of impending lockout, it just stands to reason that they come from Gary Bettman. Presiding over what will soon be his third lockout in eighteen years, Bettman did an outstanding job today acting as the mouthpiece of the owners. Very few fans, agents, and especially players seem to be on the side of the owners in this situation; fans view the owners as at fault, and Bettman made sure that this animosity towards owners will probably do nothing but grow.
His flippant, "let them eat cake" attitude towards the players can be easily shifted onto the fans as well. Sure, he's right when he implied that the fans will come back after the lockout regardless of terms or length, and fans will. We love the game, and we're loyal to our teams. Now, are fans loyal to their teams' owners? No. Are we loyal to Gary Bettman and deputy NHL commissioner Bill Daly? Absolutely not. If Bettman thinks our return to the game is due to anything other than our dedication to the sport as a whole, then he has another thing coming -- and so do the owners.
The lockout's going to happen. Bettman had the full support of the board of governors at their meeting today. We'll be hockey-less for a few months, probably. The season won't begin until the players give the owners what they want; it's hard to pity millionaires but the billionaire owners are making it very easy. The guys want to play. They want to get paid for their contributions to the league, without which there would be no income for the owners. They don't believe the publicized losses, and they do believe the profits. The players would like nothing more to get paid and to have their full contracts honored, which is something that the league doesn't want to do.
Can you imagine business professionals hiring people at ridiculous salaries willingly, then yelling because their businesses aren't making enough money -- because the salaries are holding them back? Because the very players signed to long term deals specifically to bring in fans and to make the team money are being an unfair weight around the owners' necks? How much more absurd can one get?
If you want a situation of someone making their own bed, look no further than the guys that own your favorite NHL team. The huge contracts that are given out like candy by them are the very thing that they wish to leave behind, the terms of which are meaningless. Can you understand why players are wanting equability? It's entertaining that in this day and age of working class and white collar unions being targets of discontent that the group that needs a union -- and protecting -- the most might be a group of millionaire hockey players who want nothing more than their legal contracts to be honored. It's not the Triangle Shirtwaist girls, but it's still an argument for protecting a group of workers from out of touch owners.
But hey, Bettman "feels terrible" about the whole thing. I'm sure that's on par with how terrible those who work in arenas and for the teams'll feel when they don't get paid for several months, and I'm sure that's exactly how terrible the owners of businesses and parking decks feel too.
Here's Bettman's full press conference on the matter: