All Habs Faceoff: Bettman, Beaulieu, 50/50, Schedule


Faceoff is a regular feature featuring All Habs writers going head-to-head sharing their opinions on a variety of issues.  This week Chantal and Steve discuss the league’s latest proposal, Gary Bettman, Nathan Beaulieu and because it’s Locktober, Grilled Cheese Sandwiches.

Do they agree? Do you agree with Chantal or Steve? Read, enjoy and don’t forget to leave your comments.

by Chantal, Managing Editor, and Steve Farnham, Associate Editor, All Habs Hockey Magazine

MONTREAL, QC  — We are on day 37 of the NHL lockout and despite no on ice activity, there are still plenty of headlines to bite into. Both parties have met and rejected offers, games have been cancelled, and while some hockey fans have turned their attention to other leagues, everyone has an opinion on everything.

Steve and I are no exception. Here are the topics that held our attention this week.

1.  Players should have accepted the league’s 50/50 proposal

Chantal: HAHAHA. Ever since the NHL presented their offer last Tuesday, I’ve seen many, albeit frustrated, hockey fans telling the NHLPA to just sign it, or go do things to themselves that are anatomically impossible. If you are one of those fans, I’m sorry, you’ve been Luntz’d.

While many got blinded by the headline and the proposed 50-50 split in revenue sharing, I was more curious to read the fine print. It wasn’t a great offer, I didn’t even find it all that great for the owners. Cap accounting shortsighted solutions and “make whole” concept aside, players would also lose contract negotiation rights they fought for in the last lockout.

After Bettman and company chucked the PA’s three counterproposals in the span of ten minutes and gave the evil eye to everyone at the press conference, you might be inclined to think that this lockout will last for a while, still. I’m not so sure. They’re not that far apart. They both agree they have to get to a 50-50 split, and they’re now both working with the league’s estimated growth number (five per cent).

The NHLPA have made concessions in every offer they have presented, despite the league’s inability to justify, or explain, the $1.4 billion in concessions requested from players at this time. If they can find a way to get to 50-50 while honoring signed contracts, at that point, I’ll too be screaming for everyone to sign on the dotted line.

Steve: Although I mostly agree, I do kind of understand why so many people were quick to jump at the glimmer of hope that presented itself with the owners presenting the 50-50 offer.

I understand because it gave many hockey fans some hope, hope that the entire season might not be lost when these evil CBA negotiations are all said and done.

If we stick to revenue sharing, both sides are really not all that far apart and people need to understand this. Not that long ago, we were speaking of both sides being over $1.4-billion apart, but with the NHLPA’s latest offers, we now find that both sides are really only about $500-million apart. Progress has been made yet Fehr continues to base himself on the original figure of $1.4-billion when speaking with the media, which is solely based on the 57 per cent the players will not retain.

With regards to the NHL rejecting the NHLPA’s three latest offers within the time it takes me to make a grilled cheese, I can only imagine it was purely a negotiation strategy, but I won’t speculate as to the possible motives behind it.

As you said, with both sides now agreeing on the 50-50 split in revenue shares (although they don’t agree on the timeline in getting there yet) and the five per cent in estimated revenue growth going forward, I would like to believe that both sides aren’t that far apart.

I would also like to believe that once both sides can finally agree on the revenue-sharing, the other factors that play into these negotiations which have much less of a financial impact to both the league and players will become less of a stumbling block towards reaching a deal.

2.   Will we have NHL hockey before the end of November?

Steve: I strongly believe that this is now a possibility. This lockout has produced some great posturing quotes from both sides of the argument, but if we strictly look at the numbers, like we’ve both said above, the NHL and NHLPA really aren’t that far apart.

We will continue to see a PR battle waged through the media, as both sides continue to tug on their end of the blanket, but I really don’t see how this can continue much longer because with both sides inching closer together, the incentive to remain in a lockout loses all meaning and purpose.

I would therefore not be surprised if these negotiations were to be resolved by the middle of November. Players would start flocking back from overseas, training camps would begin (mini-camps I would assume), and I could see the season start as early as late November, or early December.

Then, with a lockout over (hopefully), we’d all have to find something else to complain about, or is that just me?

Chantal: Pierre LeBrun (TSN/ESPN) reported on Sunday that a league executive declared the following: “If an agreement isn’t reached this week, we won’t have a season.” Even with that in mind, I agree we will see hockey sooner rather than later.

Both sides will make threats. “Forget the season.” “Players will stay in the KHL.” “We’re not speaking the same language; this is our best offer.” “This could be a very long dispute.” I facepalm. The league has made a point of letting everyone know that a deal must be reached by October 25th at the latest, in order to open training camps on the 26th and drop the puck on November 2nd. The season could still start around November 15th and be a full, 82-game campaign.

There is too much at stake here. Both sides know it. There is no doubt in my mind that some owners are getting antsy. No doubt either that some players just want to get this over with and PLAY. Same goes for the fans. GET ‘ER DONE! And they will. In spite of themselves, because this is just how this league operates.

3.  Gary Bettman is the problem

Chantal: Gary Bettman was unanimously voted in as NHL Commissioner in December 1992. Since, he has overseen three lockouts, one player’s strike, and has been booed in every arena around the league. While he will himself admit that being ‘hated’ is part of the job, I think we can all agree that he isn’t the most charismatic public figure.

Gary Bettman is also a very smart, educated man, and sharp negotiator. There’s a reason the NHL owners pay him a salary upwards of $8 million. In the last 20 years, he has managed to grow the game of hockey, especially in the United States, and has secured sponsorship and partnerships for the NHL in record numbers. He has done his job.

In this conflict, we have heard many players say that don’t trust Bettman. They just don’t like him. They don’t have to. But as long as he has the owners mandate, they will have to work with him. Is Bettman responsible for this labour dispute? Yes. But he’s not alone. He’s a representative, an easy target. Given the fact that he’s also very arrogant, and manipulative, I can understand the players frustration.

That all said, some will argue that Donald Fehr is responsible for this fiasco dragging on. Baseball fans especially, who still can’t seem to forgive him for the 1994 hoopla. I believe that league has been at labour peace ever since, so, maybe it’s time to move on.

Is Bettman the problem? No. Is he part of the problem? Yes. Everyone involved is.

Steve: I understand that a lot of people don’t like Gary Bettman because quite frankly, he’s not a likeable fellow. Does this however make him the problem? That’s not something i’m willing to buy.

First of all, if this so called problem that we’re talking about is the fact the NHL has currently locked out its players, I don’t believe any one person is the problem.

Bettman, just like Donald Fehr, was hired to do a job, and i’m quite certain that when he was hired back in 1992, a framework was developed in order to get the owners from where they were financially then, to where they want to be in the future. They weren’t going to get there with one lockout alone, and multiple CBAs, concessions and lockouts have lead us to where we are now.

Frustrating for the players? Of course, and understandably. But if you look at the other side of the cookie, you understand that the majority of the owners have not been profitting off of their NHL franchises. Bad management in some cases? Perhaps, but the model needed to be reworked.

Whether we agree or not with Bettman’s work, he’s only doing what he was hired to do by the owners and for now, they don’t appear to have lost any confidence in him.

I can’t help to laugh when I hear players say they don’t trust Gary Bettman. All things considered, what they really mean is that they don’t trust the owners, including their own. If it weren’t for the owners, you wouldn’t have a professional hockey league of 30 teams, that provides employment to over 700 hockey players every year, and at a pretty good salary at that.

4.  Was it a good move for Nathan Beaulieu to drop his N8THEggr8 (Nate the Great ) nickname?

Steve: As reported by Jean-François Chaumont, Nathan Beaulieu has dropped his nickname “N8THEggr8” at the advice of Brian Gionta, although he will be keeping his twitter handle (@n8THEggr8) as is. He will no longer have it written on his sticks and I’m assuming he’ll lash out anyone who calls him by that name, or maybe not.

Good move to follow the advice of Montreal Canadiens’ captain Brian Gionta? Most would probably say yes. I’m not so sure it’s the best move for Beaulieu as he moves up into the professional ranks with the Hamilton Bulldogs.

Let’s look at P.K. Subban. How many times did many of us say that it was important that Jacques Martin not change who P.K. Subban is? That it was important that he remains the wild stallion that he is?

What we keep hearing about Nathan Beaulieu is that he’s not that much different from P.K. Subban, so why doesn’t the same logic of, “let him be who he is” apply to him?

Sure, the nickname is arrogant for a guy who’s only just moved up from the junior ranks, but if that’s who he is, what’s the big deal?

Chantal: The poor kid probably thought, cool, Nate the Great, it rhymes. Sorta. I don’t know Nathan as a person very well, but let me take a leap here and say… he’s young. He’s talented. He was drafted by the most storied franchise in the NHL. He’s confident, or arrogant, depending on your point of view, and he’s still growing up.

I don’t think the intention behind the nickname was to compare himself to The Great One, who earned the title, and we all know why. Brian Gionta was quoted as saying: “It was logical advice.” Sure, I guess. Left unsaid was that Nathan shouldn’t think he’s bigger than his team, or the game. Stay humble. Move up in the league, earn respect and prove yourself before claiming you’re The Great.

His new sticks will simply say Beaulieu. And Nate, that’s already pretty great.

5. The perfect grilled cheese sandwich is served with ketchup

Chantal: It’s October. We are all hockey deprived and need comfort food. There’s nothing better than a good old fashioned grilled cheese sandwich. First, always use butter on your bread, not margarine. Always use freshly baked Belgian or Italian crusted bread, none of that plain, white store bought stuff.  As for cheese, a sharp cheddar is my go-to favorite, but there is no such thing as a bad cheese. If you’re thinking of adding ham or something, you’re doing it wrong.

Once you’ve fried your sandwich to perfection and it’s all golden and crispy on the outside, you need to cut it up in triangles, and serve it on a nice plate, with ketchup. You can not have a grilled cheese sandwich without ketchup. It would be like Batman without Robin, Bonnie without Clyde, or Habs without Carey Price. It just doesn’t work.

Now, sit back, enjoy, and pray the Hockey Gods come through for us.

Steve: You’re absolutely crazy if you think that’s how you make a perfect grilled cheese sandwich, crazy I tell ya!

Look at us, Miss Princess Fancy Bread over there, with her Belgian and Italian crusted bread, too good for the cheap bread from the grocery store? Plain white bread is absolutely fine and the preferred type of bread. (If I could afford the fancy bread, I wouldn’t be eating a frigging grilled cheese…)

As for the cheese, there is only one kind of cheese you can use and that’s Kraft singles. It’s THE cheese, in grilled cheese.

If you have Swiss cheese lying around, you can also use it. It’s not the best cheese to use but it’s Swiss, so we can only be neutral to it.

Then comes, yes Chantal, the ham. You need ham, duh.

Now here’s how you make that grilled cheese.

  1. Take out two slices of bread and butter one side of each.
  2. Start cooking some ham in a pan on the side.
  3. Lay both of your bread slices (butter side down) into a separate pan, placing a slice of cheese on top of both.
  4. Time it so that the cheese starts melting just as the ham is ready.
  5. Place the ham within both slices, and serve.
You can’t beat that grilled cheese, you just can’t.

Faceoff: Chantal vs. Steve







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