SBD/January 14, 2013/Leagues and Governing Bodies

Sabres' Ryan Miller Spouts Off On NHL Lockout, Blames Commissioner Gary Bettman

Miller accused Bettman of seeing "how far he could take" the lockout
Sabres G Ryan Miller on Friday had "a few lingering frustrations to get off his chest regarding the NHL lockout," according to John Wawrow of the AP. Miller said, "The best thing to do is acknowledge that it was stupid. I appreciate [the fans'] patience. I know it’s a hard situation. I still don’t even know the right message because it was just a stupid, useless waste of time." Miller, who played a role in negotiations, said he was "embarrassed" that it took more than six months of negotiations to reach an agreement. He laid the blame "on owners, specifically singling out commissioner Gary Bettman, whom he accused of being the reason why the four-month lockout wasn’t resolved sooner." Miller said, "In my mind, it always had to be January in Gary Bettman’s mind. Obviously, he had something in his head and he was going to see how far he could take it. So there’s really no going up against Gary, when he has something in his head" (AP, 1/11).

TIME TO PASS THE TORCH: In L.A., Helene Elliott wrote on her Twitter feed that Bettman will "be at the Kings' banner raising" on Saturday afternoon, but "by his own choice -- will not go onto the ice" (TWITTER.com, 1/14). In Boston, Kevin Paul Dupont wrote it is "unimaginable" that Bettman "ever again will fulfill the commissioner’s duty of handing out the Stanley Cup" after this latest lockout. It has been "increasingly embarrassing to watch Bettman do it in recent years, given the level of animosity that showers down upon him from the stands." With three lockouts now "under his belt and fans historically siding with players in labor disputes, the exercise would be not only painful to witness but potentially damaging to the brand." It would be "far better to have" a Hockey HOFer like Bobby Orr, Gordie Howe, or Wayne Gretzky "haul out the hardware" (BOSTON GLOBE, 1/13).

CROSBY MAKES HIS CASE: YAHOO SPORTS' Nicholas Cotsonika wrote Penguins C Sidney Crosby is "in a unique position" within the NHL, as he is "delicate and powerful, and he knows it." He "didn't have to do anything during negotiations," as the new contract rules "wouldn't affect him personally." With so much "star power and influence," he also could have "put more pressure on one side or the other." However, Crosby "straddled the line, letting other players take the lead for the union, but staying informed and involved with both sides -- more out front than other stars of his stature have been in the past, more outspoken than he might have been in the past." Crosby said of his involvement in the proceedings, "I wouldn't say it was easy. But I think that it was something that I believed in, and I felt like I wanted what was good for everyone. I wasn't going to sit up there and say, 'You know what? I want to take everything from the owners and get as much as we can get.' I knew it was important for both sides to come out of the deal happy, but I knew there were certain things for us that were important, too. I was willing to support those things" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 1/11).

GOING BEHIND THE SCENES: The GLOBE & MAIL's David Shoalts wrote the key to ending the NHL lockout "slipped into place at 2 a.m. last Sunday," when Coyotes RW Shane Doan "sat down" with NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly and NHL outside counsel Bob Batterman in a board room at NHL HQs in N.Y. More than 12 hours earlier, Bettman and the owners "remained adamant the salary cap in the second year of a new collective agreement could not be more than" $60M (all figures U.S.). But the players wanted a "more gradual move to the lower salary cap and were holding out" for $64.3M, the same as the '11-12 cap, after starting at $70M. By the time Doan "sat down with Daly and Batterman, the owners had grudgingly raised their offer" to $62.5M, less than $2M away from the players. But "one hour later, after Doan explained why the players could not move from their number, his sincerity won over Daly and Batterman." It was the "key breakthrough and the remaining major issues were worked through in a couple of hours." By 5:00am ET, the players and owners "had a tentative agreement on a new labour deal." The lockout "was over." Shoalts included a "timeline of the major events that led to the agreement" (GLOBE & MAIL, 1/12).

ANALYSIS OF A DEAL: NHL player agent Tom Laidlaw said both the league and the union "really gave in” during the CBA negotiations to get a deal done. Laidlaw said NHLPA Exec Dir Donald Fehr kept the players “all together … and for him to keep everybody together the way he did as long as he did that’s one of the biggest things” in the negotiations. Laidlaw noted the players “knew they were going to have to give up some things," and they "did their best to give up as little as possible and get back as much as they could.” Meanwhile, Laidlaw said “everybody wants to pick on” Bettman, but he has "helped to drive salaries up." Laidlaw: "People don’t like him because of the job he has to do, but from a business side … he’s done a very good job for everybody” (“Sportfolio,” Bloomberg TV, 1/11).
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