NHL Owners or Bettman: Who’s Driving the Bus?

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Written by Habsterix, Senior Writer, AllHabs.net

As the talks are stalling and the threat of a lockout become more and more of a reality, fans are left wondering where they stand in the big picture, keeping some hope that somewhere, someone is working for them behind the scene in this battle between millionaires and billionaires.

PENTICTON, BC. — We, as fans, understand that the NHL is a business and while we may not be “in the know” when it comes to the details of what’s being discussed behind closed doors amongst Governors and during the CBA negotiations, we understand that labour talks are not easy. We’ve read reports that some teams can’t keep up with the cap floor and that some are pretty much guaranteed to lose money before the puck is dropped to start the season and that, in spite of a hard salary cap and some sort of revenue sharing. We, the fans, want the NHL to be healthy and we want our favourite sport to thrive.

Fans also understand that the players are loved and that they are the reason why we like the game. Players are the ones being idolized, they are the ones signing autographs, attending different events and giving their time to different charity events and making public appearances. They play a huge role in our love for the game. But fans understand that for that to happen, owners need to have profitable franchises.

While there is no doubt that the cancellation of the 2004-2005 season was hard on the owners and the players, fans survived with most thinking that this was necessary to allow the NHL to right the ship, to fix its internal problems. They did, directly or indirectly, support and understood that it was a sacrifice which, hopefully, was going to make things better for the future of this league, for the good of the game we love.

Hartland Molson

I have a good deal of respect for Geoff Molson who has done an amazing job since taking over as the owner of the Montreal Canadiens. He recognized that previous management was destroying the product. Molson appointed a trusted friend in Serge Savard to help guide him in his hockey decisions and from there, he hired a well-respected, up and coming executive at the position of General Manager in Marc Bergevin.

I contend that Molson understands marketing and the importance of public relations, promotion of his product and mostly knew his market in Montreal, in Quebec and across Canada. He put money and great efforts into bringing back pride, just like it was back in the days of Hartland Molson and the Molson family during the team’s glory days. It is my opinion that Molson is doing his part to promote his product, to keep and grow the Canadiens’ fan base.

As a fan, I wonder what Mr. Molson feels when he sees NHL commissioner Gary Bettman conduct business the way he does? Does Bettman have blind support from the NHL owners, carte blanche to do or say what he wants, or does he follow strict orders and guidelines put forth by his employers, who by the way pay him amazingly well, perhaps too well?

Owners, like Molson, who work hard at building their franchise must cringe at some of the comments made by their representative. “Players make too much money,” said Bettman just the other day. Does he think fans are that stupid? Who, Mr. Bettman, is giving the players those contracts? Who forced Craig Leipold to give Ryan Suter and Zach Parise the money that he gave them? Yes we, fans, understand that there is peer pressure to be competitive and that in some markets, it is difficult to draw big name UFAs. But please, don’t let Bettman tell us that the players are making too much money when owners agree to such contracts!

And now, fans are reading that Bettman and the owners are not concerned about the effects of another lockout, a third one under the commissioner? “We recovered well last time because we have the world’s greatest fans,” Bettman said. Do the owners realize that this attitude is a very risky game? Taking the fans for granted and thinking that they’re idiots, sheep that will follow no matter what because they have in the past is very, very dangerous.

The first Habs’ captain to lift the Stanley Cup after my birth was Jean Beliveau so I’ve seen the good and the bad of the NHL. I can tell you that now, I’m seeing the ugly and while it may be a good old classic movie, it is not one that this fan wants to see in the NHL. To think that some owners are putting so much effort into getting their ship on track while the commissioner is raising a storm has to hurt.

I strongly believe that Molson is a man of pride and honour, an owner with integrity. If he wasn’t, he wouldn’t have made changes this summer, he would have been happy to pocket the money.

It is my opinion that the commissioner of the NHL is ruining this game with his gimmick rules to cater fair-weather fans in the US, perhaps following orders from his good friends Jeremy Jacobs and Ed Snider. This fan is growing more and more frustrated and while I never thought in a million year that I would feel this way, I am seriously thinking that perhaps, it’s time for me to find another passion.

Mr. Bettman, there better not be a lockout, or if there is, it better not drag. I have full faith that if anyone can do something about it by talking some sense to the commissioner it is owners like Molson. While I have faith in Geoff Molson, I can’t say the same about the person representing him and the other owners.

En français: Lettre à Geoff Molson

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J.D. Lagrange
J.D. is a Senior writer for All Habs as well as Associate-Editor for the French version Le Magazine All Habs, while one of three Administrators of the fan forum Les Fantômes du Forum. He has created the handle Habsterix as a fictional character for the sole purpose of the internet. It is based on the cartoon Asterix of Gaule and his magic potion is his passion for the Montreal Canadiens. How old is he? His close friends will tell you that he’s so old, his back goes out more than he does! He was born when Béliveau lifted the Cup and remembers the days when seeing the Habs winning was not a wish, it was an expectation. For him, writing is a hobby, not a profession. Having moved to beautiful British Columbia in 1992 from his home town of Sherbrooke, Quebec, he started writing mostly in French to keep up his grammar, until non-bilingual BC friends pushed him into starting his own English Blog. His wife will say that he can be stubborn, but she will be the first to recognise that he has great sense of humour. He is always happy to share with you readers his point of views on different topics, and while it is expected that people won’t always agree, respect of opinions and of others is his mission statement. || J.D. est Rédacteur-Adjoint sur Le Magazine All Habs et il est un Rédacteur Principal sur le site anglophone All Habs, tout en étant un des trois Administrateurs du forum de discussion Les Fantômes du Forum. Il a créé le pseudonyme Habstérix comme caractère fictif pour l’internet. Celui-ci est basé sur Astérix de Gaule et sa potion magique est sa passion pour les Canadiens de Montréal. Lorsqu’il est né, Jean Béliveau soulevait la Coupe Stanley et il se rappelle des jours où gagner n’était pas un espoir, mais une attente. Pour lui, écrire est un passe-temps, pas une profession. Ayant déménagé dans la superbe Colombie-Britannique en 1992 en provenance de sa ville natale de Sherbrooke, Québec, il a commencé à écrire en français pour garder sa grammaire, jusqu’à ce que ses amis anglophones ne réussissent à le convaincre d’avoir son blog en anglais. Son épouse vous dira qu’il est têtu, mais elle sera la première à reconnaître son grand sens de l’humour. Il est toujours fier de partager avec vous, lecteurs et lectrices, ses points de vue sur différents sujets, et quoi que les gens ne s’entendent pas toujours sur ceux-ci, le respect des opinions et des autres est son énoncé de mission.

7 COMMENTS

  1. Still not sure why anyone feels Bettman has any real power at all or makes any decisions?
    He is simply a puppet-front man or whatever you want to call him.
    He gets $7-10m/year to take crap for the owners and do their bidding, that is it.

    • While it’s hard to tell exactly how much leash Bettman actually has, I highly doubt that the owners told him to say that the players make too much money and the the fans will come back anyway.

      I truly believe that Bettman has the support of some owners and others dislike him. I’m seriously thinking that the main reason why no owner raised an issue and voted to renew him is because they knew that the CBA negotiations were coming and they didn’t want to get into a situation of having someone inexperienced negotiating for them. Timing more than actual qualifications.

      Don’t get me wrong, some owners likely support him 100%, namely his buddies in Boston and Philly amongst others. But I’m not so sure that he’s as “unanimous” as some want to believe…

  2. never said he was a unanimous choice and kind of irrelevant, as he has no power and i am sure he spins the owners message as he sees fit (why lawyers are chosen as their puppet every time).

    • Bettman indeed makes decisions, sculpts direction and wields considerable power bolstered by 5 or 6 NHL owners of the executive committee. In addition, he rules with an iron fist not allowing governors to speak publicly about the internal workings of the league. The interests of Bettman and the league’s most powerful owners are mutually aligned.

  3. I do not believe that there will be a lock-out, too much at stake here.I’m quite certain that the owners will over rule the Sept 15 deadline, and talks will continue until an agreement is made between both parties . I believe that the current CBA makes sense,and while the current NHL has grown into a monster, seems that every1 wants a bigger piece of the pie.I’m certain that a consensus will be reached and the games will continue as scheduled. In todays economy,a lock-out is definitely not in the NHLs best interest.

    • I genuinely hope you’re right Patrick. For the first time in several years, I’m excited about the Habs, with Gauthier and Martin out and with Bergevin at the helm.

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