NHL Labour Woes

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman sorry — again

By Scott Mitchell, Toronto Sun

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman. (LYLE ASPINALL/QMI Agency)

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman. (LYLE ASPINALL/QMI Agency)

Gary Bettman is sorry.


With the third lockout on his watch winding to an end after NHL board of governors unanimously ratified the framework of a new collective bargaining agreement Wednesday in New York, the NHL commissioner issued a surprise apology from behind the same podium that became synonymous with negative news over the course of this latest work stoppage.

“We know no words of apology or explanation will soften the disappointment,” Bettman said. “I read the letters, I followed the tweets, I read the blogs. We have a lot of work to do. The National Hockey League has a responsibility to earn back your trust and support, whether you watch one game or every game. And that effort begins today.

“To the players who were very clear they wanted to be on the ice and not negotiating labour contracts, to our partners who support the league financially, and personally, and most importantly, to our fans, who love and have missed NHL hockey, I am sorry,” Bettman added. “I know that an explanation or an apology won’t erase the hard feelings that have built up over the last few months, but I owe you an apology nonetheless.”

Apologies were a common theme on this day.

“This great game has been gone for far too long, and for that we are truly sorry,” Boston Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs said.

But the inevitable questions remain: How much damage has been done and how long will it take to be repaired after 113 days of empty arenas?

One thing is certain, coming out of this labour dispute, there are no winners, as owners, players and fans are all left to pick up the pieces and move forward.

“In the end, neither side got everything it wanted, and everyone lost in the short term,” Bettman said. “But the NHL gained a long-term agreement that’s good for players and good for teams and should guarantee the future success of NHL hockey for many years to come. It will help the game to grow, ensuring greater economic stability for all of our teams.”

Bettman revealed campaigns will be rolled out by the league to show its appreciation to the fans, similar to the last time around when ‘thank yous’ painted on the ice welcomed fans back in 2006.

This time, it needs to go much deeper than that.

Three lockouts in 18 years is three too many, and even though the new CBA term is 10 years with a mutual opt-out after eight seasons, at this point, it’s impossible for fans not to wonder when the next one will be if Bettman is still on the job.

“As commissioner of the National Hockey League, it sometimes falls upon me to make tough decisions that disappoint and occasionally anger players and fans,” Bettman said. “This was a long and extremely difficult negotiation — one that took a lot longer than anybody wanted. I know it caused frustration, disappointment and even suffering to a lot of people who have supported the National Hockey League in many different ways.

“I’m looking forward to continuing to grow this game both on and off the ice as we have over the last 20 years,” continued Bettman, hinting he intends to stay aboard as commish in the near future. “I think the opportunities are great, and I’m excited to be a part of them.”

Reports of Bettman’s job being in jeopardy are unfounded, Jacobs said.

“Gary, (deputy commissioner) Bill (Daly) and their staff worked tirelessly from long before the lockout began in an effort to reach a constructive conclusion,” Jacobs said. “Gary and Bill have the complete and unconditional support of the Board — and our gratitude.”

The NHLPA will go through their own electronic ratification vote Friday and Saturday, with majority support needed to get the players back on the ice, perhaps as early as Sunday.

Bettman said the league plans to announce the schedule for the abbreviated season as soon as the players vote.

Reader's comments »

By adding a comment on the site, you accept our terms and conditions