NHL BOG Must Decide Gary Bettman's Future In Wake Of Lockout
While the NHL BOG meets today in N.Y. to vote on a new CBA, "another important item will be under consideration, even though it will not be on the official agenda: whether Gary Bettman will keep his job as commissioner,” according to Jeff Klein of the N.Y. TIMES. The NHLPA “acceded to a 50-50 split in late November, more than a month before an agreement was reached.” But by persisting “until the brink of canceling the season, Bettman won at least one other vital concession: a collective bargaining agreement that will last either 8 or 10 years, almost twice the length of what the players wanted.” Bettman took a “hard line through most of the negotiations," supported by Bruins Owner and BOG Chair Jeremy Jacobs. Meanwhile, NHLPA Exec Dir Donald Fehr during the talks “had to respond to reporters’ questions based on anonymous tips suggesting that Fehr was misleading the players.” No matter who devised the "anti-Fehr strategy, when it came time to make a deal, Jacobs and the other owners on the negotiating committee were absent from the final round of talks.” It remains "unclear if Jacobs agreed to leave the process.” But even if some owners are “unsupportive of Bettman on Wednesday, others may see him in a stronger position than ever” (N.Y. TIMES, 1/9).
THE CASE TO LEAVE: THE HOCKEY NEWS’ Ken Campbell wrote when Bettman marks his 20th year as commissioner Feb. 1, the league “should announce his exit strategy from the top job, a process that should take place over the next two years.” It is not because “all of this is necessarily Bettman’s fault because he has been doing the bidding of his employers, but the reality is that he has been the central character of three lockouts and history will show his name will always be associated with those work stoppages before anything else.” If Bettman “isn’t going to be around to negotiate the next CBA, the best thing the league could [do] for its fans is wipe the slate clean and bring in a new commissioner over the next couple of years” (THEHOCKEYNEWS.com, 1/6). In Pittsburgh, Gene Collier writes under the header, “Time For Fehr, Bettman To Go” (PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE, 1/9).
THE CASE TO STAY: SI.com’s Stu Hackel wrote under the header, “Is Gary Bettman In Trouble?” Unless the BOG was "expecting -- or was unrealistically promised -- a thrashing of the PA, Bettman’s results should not be terribly disappointing to the Board.” He got them “their 50-50 split … and he was able to claw back some contracting rights that enabled cap circumvention.” Unless he “over-promised and under-delivered, or there’s a seismic shift in the tectonic plates beneath the Board of Governors, Gary Bettman isn’t going anywhere.” SI’s Michael Farber said, “I spoke to somebody today who was part of the negotiations from the owners’ side and he thinks that Bettman is very solid. He characterized it as ‘whining’ from a couple of places, but there is no move to oust Bettman.” The National Post’s Bruce Arthur said, “The question is going to be whether owners are disappointed enough in this deal and his tenure to oust him. I’m not sure we’re there yet” (SI.com, 1/8). QMI AGENCY’s Patrick Kennedy noted CBC’s Don Cherry has “come under fire in recent days for his unswerving support” of Bettman. Cherry said, "I've said it before, but if Bettman doesn't pull the trigger on this deal, it doesn't get done and the whole season's shot." He added, "Heck, even my wife even wondered, 'Are you nuts? Why are you supporting that guy?'" (QMI AGENCY, 1/8).
ON THE FENCE: YAHOO SPORTS’ Nicholas Cotsonika wrote, “Not everyone is happy with Bettman himself or the deal itself. Not by a long shot." The negotiations "took too long and turned too ugly, and this CBA might not solve the league's underlying problems in the long run.” But Bettman “continued to receive support.” He got a “better deal for the owners than they had before, and he took the heat while they stayed in the shadows.” He will leave a “mixed legacy that will include the black marks of three lockouts, and he will have made gains for his bosses by doing the dirty work” (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 1/8).