SBD/January 10, 2013/Leagues and Governing Bodies

NHL BOG Unanimously Approves CBA; Bettman Balks At Notion Of His Exit

Bettman said the league has a responsibility to earn back the fans' trust
The NHL BOG yesterday ratified the tentative CBA reached Sunday between the league and NHLPA, voting "unanimously" to pass the deal, according to Katie Strang of ESPN N.Y. All that is needed for the deal "to become official is for the players to vote." A source said that the vote, which will "be held electronically for the 700-plus membership, is expected to be finished by Friday or Saturday." The source added that training camps are "tentatively set to open Sunday ... with a 48-game regular season scheduled to start Jan. 19." NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman yesterday "offered an apology to the fans for the lockout." He 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" (ESPNNY.com, 1/9). Bettman added, "I'm sorry. I know an explanation or an apology will not erase the hard feelings that have built up over the last few months, but I owe you an apology nonetheless." Bettman: "What I said to the owners is ... this is a good deal and a fair deal and in collective bargaining not everybody gets everything they want" (USA TODAY, 1/10). Bettman "wouldn't say specifically what the league intended to do to make it up to the fans, but said there are plans in the works" (Illinois DAILY HERALD, 1/10).

STANDING BY THEIR MAN: Bettman said that some owners were "disappointed with various aspects of the deal," but he "dispelled questions about his job status as speculation." Bettman: "I'm looking forward to continuing to grow this game, both on and off the ice, as we have over the last 20 years." Canadiens President & CEO Geoff Molson said Bettman had "strong" support from the owners. Molson: "There are 30 owners, and Gary Bettman represents all 30 owners. He did the best he possibly can to satisfy every owner to the best possible level. It's impossible for every single team to be 100 percent satisfied with everything" (N.Y. TIMES, 1/10). USA TODAY's Kevin Allen notes Bruins Owner and NHL BOG Chair Jeremy Jacobs "issued a public vote of confidence for Bettman, deputy commissioner Bill Daly and their staff, presumably aimed at cutting off speculation about Bettman's future as the NHL's commander-in-chief." Jacobs said, "Gary and Bill have the complete and unconditional support of the board, as well as our gratitude." Stars Owner Tom Gaglardi said the new CBA will "offer long-term stability to our league and most importantly will feature many specific elements that will level the playing field across the league" (USA TODAY, 1/10). ESPN.com's Pierre LeBrun wrote a leadership change is "far-fetched at this point." LeBrun: "I wouldn’t be surprised if Bettman saw through this entire 10-year CBA as commissioner." The key now for "the success of this league -- and by definition Bettman’s future success -- is to unleash NHL COO John Collins with no strings attached." Bettman "got his deal passed with flying colors." One NHL BOG member said, "It was actually a real good mood in there today." LeBrun: "But don’t get totally fooled here. There is nevertheless some unhappiness with this CBA." One owner said, "For the smaller-market teams, this wasn’t the deal we had envisioned" (ESPN.com, 1/9).

ALL APOLOGIES: The GLOBE & MAIL's David Shoalts writes, "Abject apologies were the order of the day." Jacobs said, "This great game has been gone for too long and for that we are extremely sorry." But Shoalts notes many of the NHL’s governors and GMs are "not sure the fans will be quick to forgive and forget." Capitals VP & GM George McPhee said, "I don’t think there’s any message other than we’re going to be real happy to see you." Lightning VP & GM Steve Yzerman: "The best thing (a team) can do is win and get in the playoffs to make things positive. (Lightning owner) Jeff Vinik has worked hard to have a positive impact in our community. I hope it’s bought us a little bit of grace" (GLOBE & MAIL, 1/10). SI.com's Sarah Kwak wrote NHL execs hoping for "forgiveness of fans who understandably threw up their hands" during the lockout is "a lot to ask" (SI.com, 1/9). The AP's Ira Podell wrote Bettman "took the time to mend badly damaged fences" (AP, 1/9). The CP's Chris Johnston writes Bettman "appeared a humble and apologetic man." This was Bettman "as he's rarely seen." The "contrite commissioner took his medicine." It might have been "his only choice" (CP, 1/10). CSNNE.com's Joe Haggerty wrote the "conciliatory tone was the right one" (CSNNE.com, 1/9). In Edmonton, John MacKinnon writes "only a churl" would suggest Bettman's apology "was not heartfelt" (EDMONTON JOURNAL, 1/10).

SORRY IS AS SORRY DOES? SPORTING NEWS' Jesse Spector wrote Bettman seems to "grasp the fact that unless there are significant, tangible, visible steps taken to restore the trust of fans, players, and sponsors over the life of the new CBA, his league will be forever doomed to obscurity." Bettman's words "were on point," but they "need to be followed by action" (SPORTINGNEWS.com, 1/9). The CBC's Elliotte Friedman wrote, "It's clear the league's strategy is that it is time to move on" (CBC.ca, 1/9). In N.Y., Larry Brooks writes the apologies "would not have been quite so comical" if Bettman and the owners "had not invested a majority of their energy during the lockout to attempting to undermine" NHLPA Exec Dir Donald Fehr's leadership in a "strategy of divide-and-conquer that ultimately failed." Bettman was "not there to talk about the past." His "ultimate willingness to listen on the final day of the lockout was the key to ending the stalemate." Sources said that it was a "one-hour meeting last Saturday attended by only Bettman, NHL attorney Bob Batterman and the Coyotes’ universally respected Shane Doan that broke the logjam over the critical issue regarding the 2013-14 cap number" (N.Y. POST, 1/10). 

PLAYERS' BITTER AFTERTASTE: Blackhawks C Jonathan Toews yesterday said that the last three months "definitely caused some resentment between the players and the league." Toews: "Just from the fact there wasn't a whole lot of trust, or a whole lot of give and take these past couple of months. ... I think the thing we can learn from it is that both sides need to have that mutual understanding and mutual respect. You need to work hard together for the fans and for the good of the game and not just argue over who makes more money or who takes this and who takes that." He added, "I don't think having a lockout changes anything. In a normal situation you should still take the time to spend talking with your fans and sign autographs on a daily basis. But I think that's something that's going to reach a new level, just interacting with our fans, signing autographs, that kind of thing." Toews: "Did it really have to go this far, did we really have to miss over three months?” (Illinois DAILY HERALD, 1/10). In Boston, Stephen Harris notes several Bruins players “expressed a near certainty the new CBA will be ratified by the union.” Bruins C Chris Kelly said, “It’s a done deal and hockey is going forward. I think it’s a fair deal for both sides.” Bruins C Gregory Campbell: “I don’t think there’s any question that it’s going to be ratified.” Bruins LW Shawn Thornton said, “We gave up a lot.” But he added, “The precedent was kind of set with the other two major league sports” (BOSTON HERALD, 1/10).

TAMPA'S OLIVE BRANCH: SPORTING NEWS' Sean Gentille noted the Lightning are "offering $200 season ticket packages." Granted, there are "only 200 packages up for sale, and they'll get Lightning fans into 24 games, rather than the standard 41, but that's still remarkable" (SPORTINGNEWS.com, 1/9).
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