Thursday, September 13, 2012

Gary Bettman is a Diabolical Madman Who Must be Stopped Part 3

The continuing story of a misfit turned commissioner of the Nationa Hockey League. If you haven't yet checked out Part 1 and Part 2 of this saga, you should do so.

Two days until the current Collective Bargaining Agreement expires, we got more tough news from both the NHL and the NHLPA. In a way, it was more the same. Two sides pointing fingers at the other side, making small tweeks and concessions in their offers, standing strong and united against their foe, and largely engaging in hard line tactics designed to stall, bring us up to the deadline, and force the other side to break.

I haven't heard a whole lot in terms of details from other sides. I admit I may have missed them, but I'm not hearing the details. What I am hearing is the NHL hasn't moved at all off their unfair offer, if you believe the NHLPA, and that the NHLPA hasn't moved at all off their unfair offer, if you believe Gary Bettman.

As some of his comments came filtering in via the Twitsphere, I still feel like the NHL knows that it's in the wrong here. Or at the very least, that they're less right than the players. They're continuing a lot of the same messages as before: the players' are costing us too much money (while we continue to hand out record contracts), the teams need more money, and just like last time there were messages coming in that really stood out to me. 

This struck me as an odd thing to say, because this is the system that the NHL and its owners implemented. Why is it a bad thing that the players have become comfortable with the system that you designed, pushed upon the players during the last lockout, and have been operating under since the 2005 lockout? I would think that you would desperately want the players to be comfortable with it. It sounds to me like the owners and the NHL got exactly what it wanted. They're behaving like a spoiled child. 

Okay, that's crap. You gave the players an extra 1% of HRR with your last proposal. Granted, we're talking about millions of dollars here, but I wouldn't call a 1% change significant in this context. The unemployment rating dropping by 1% is much more significant than this. The United States' GDP increasing by 1% more would be dramatic. 

Granted, I think these negotiations can and ultimately will come down to a percent (or a fraction of one), but that's what happens when you're trying to divide up a financial pie. If the NHL went from offering the players less than 50% of the HRR to offering them more than 50% of the HRR, I would characterize that offer as dramatic. As it stands, they're acting like their offer is hot shit on a silver platter when in fact their offer is cold snot on a paper plate. 

I understand this perspective from the owners. And it's not entirely an unfair perspective to have. But the league is already making more money than the players. Current player salaries total to roughly $1.777 billion dollars across 658 signed players on the rosters of the 32 NHL teams. This means the average NHL player is making around $2.7 million dollars. That means that the league getting 43% of hockey related revenue is not enough to cover the $1.777 billion in player salaries, plus all other operation costs.

But this flies in the face of the NHL admitting on its own website that 2011 was the "Best-Ever Business Year" that was "Highlighted By Record Revenues". That's not a quote from some assistant accountant buried in the article, by the way. That's the headline of the article. Every year since 2006 has seen record revenues, including 2011. Every measurable area of growth (sponsorship, TV viewership, merchandising, etc) saw an increase.

So if record revenues for 5 straight years and 43% of the HRR is not enough to maintain the league and the teams, how could it possibly have been the "Best-Ever Business Year" ? Why are more teams not suckling on the teat of the NHL to stay alive, instead of only the Phoenix Coyotes? How can team owners be offering record contracts to restricted and unrestricted free agents when they know that their share of the money isn't going to be enough to satiate their lustful spending habits? And why do the players have to make sacrifices to curb the bad decisions of their bosses?

Comments? How about "Fuck you!"? How's that for a comment? Quick side note: I mean that at Bettman, not at Allan Walsh, who I have no quarrel with. Below is a comprehensive list of all the people who want to make a deal and play hockey more than Gary Bettman

  • Me
  • The players
  • The people who work at Joe Louis Arena and other hockey arenas 
  • The broadcasters, press and bloggers who cover hockey for a living and/or hobby
  • The owners, general managers and employees of the various team organizations
  • Bill Brasskey, a fictional character from early 90's Saturday Night Live skits
  • The fans
  • Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
  • Every man, woman and child who has existed, currently exists, or will sometime exist in the future in every conceivable and inconceivable world, galaxy, universe and reality who is not Gary Bettman
Because you know what is the really telling truth about responding to Bettman's comment? "No one wants to make a deal and play hockey more than I do" - except you never played hockey, Gary. You went to school, and got a law degree and became a lawyer, then worked for the NBA and then became the NHL commissioner. No where in there did you play hockey. And if you did, it obviously didn't have much of an impact on you. 

I admit that Bettman isn't the only guilty one here. He is the messenger for the Board of Governor's and represents the wishes of those who own the teams. He is largely doing their bidding and on top of that, the players could probably be more flexible in their demands without completely abdicating their bargaining position. That being said, when Bettman comes out and says he asked for a show of hands today as to who is willing to lockout the players, I imagined the meeting looked something like this.

You're all assholes. I want my Red Wings hockey, dammit. 

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