Matt Kartozian-US PRESSWIRE
The NHL can't seem to stay put of its own way during this lockout. Well, except in the board room, in which Gary Bettman hasn't had much of an issue stopping progress.
In a letter to the players the night of the NHL’s most recent offer Donald Fehr said the following:
Simply put, the owners' new proposal, while not quite as Draconian as their previous proposals, still represents enormous reductions in player salaries and individual contracting rights.
Draconian is probably the best word to use in the circumstances. Draconian – while interesting to see at the time – makes a whole hell of a lot more sense now.
The NHL suffered its second public relations nightmare on Tuesday, when it was revealed that for a 48-hour period the NHL actually permitted team’s to answer questions if their players contacted them directly. The NHL gave a memo to the teams before they allowed the window to open, you can find that memo here. reports have surfaced that some teams contacted their players during the window, not the other way around.
The point of allowing this was to 1) Clarify the owner’s offer (call this this Donald Fehr filter the NHL seems to believe exists); and 2) Alleviate some of the "awkwardness" between the players and the teams.
So, if you’re keeping score at home, the NHL bent the rules for their own personal gain. What’s the gain of giving the NHL general managers a 48-hour window to answer questions to the players? Well, a lot. It circumvents the solidarity of the NHLPA. It went behind Donald Fehr’s back and allowed teams to answer questions about their own proposals. It essentially attempted to help create cracks in the Union or make sure the cracks that are forming continue to grow.
And, yet again, it proved that Gary Bettman will do whatever it takes to make sure he "wins" this battle. Even though he actually loses if an entire season is missed due to another lockout.
It’s a sleazy tactic. There’s no way around it. The thing is: There should be awkwardness between the players and the teams. How could there not be? You really think Zach Parise and Ryan Suter don’t feel a little betrayed by the Minnesota Wild? You don’t think Shea Weber is looking at the Philadelphia Flyers with a little disdain? The NHL actually doesn't understand why players would be upset about the lockout after watching teams cram contracts under the old and "broken" CBA in the wavering hours of the pre-lockout world?
This was a cheap ploy, and one that might cost the NHL dearly. If, in fact, one of the teams did break script, and one of the players made note of it to the NHLPA, there will be serious issues. I have no idea what they will be, but it will be tremendous. Was it worth the risk? Bettman better hope so.
Because even if the best case scenario plays out for the NHL – that being no teams betrayed the script or that no players revealed it if they did – this is an embarrassment for the league. Bettman bent his own rules because it helped his side. And yet he wonders why the NHLPA has such an issue with him. He wonders why the NHLPA doesn’t trust him.
It’s because Bettman plays by his own rules. Except now that this is out in the open, the players will only get stronger. Fehr has done a great job at keeping this group unified to the end. Bettman knows he won the last lockout because the players cracked and turned on each other. That’s not happening again. Maybe Bettman thought that would start to happen by allowing the players to talk to their teams, but with news going public everyone in the know thinks that's unified the players even more.
And, to make matters even more optimistic, allegedly the NHLPA wanted to talk this week before the deadline, and the NHL said they didn't need to talk if the players weren't going to use the NHL's framework. Then Bill Daly speculated that he expected there to be a freeze in talks. Oh, good.
The timing is simply perfect. The clock keeps ticking. The embarrassments continue to mount and progress continues to not be made.
Perfect. Who needs an 82-game season anyway?