If Gary Bettman and Bob Goodenow were wise, they would start
negotiating a new NHL labour contract now. The issues are far more
complex than baseball.
By MIKE ULMER -- Toronto Sun
Memo to: Gary Bettman, c/o NHL offices, and Bob Goodenow, c/o NHL
Thought this would be an opportune time to drop you a line in light
of the baseball settlement and the opening of NHL training camps next
Fans are heartened by the fact that baseball's owners and players
managed a deal without a work stoppage for the first time in nine
If Donald Fehr and Bud Selig can strike a deal, anyone can. That, of
course, includes you two doughheads.
The NHL contract has two more seasons to run and that leaves plenty
of time for the two of you to pile irritants in front of each other.
Case in point, Gary, the NHL's challenge to the Bobby Holik, Darius
Kasparaitis contracts which, as usual, gave plenty of work to lawyers
but accomplished nothing.
Second case in point, Bob, Gary's open invitation to start early
negotiations for a new deal, last issued publicly at the all-star
game. He's still waiting.
Baseball found peace because the alternative was Armageddon. Fan
anger was about to consume the game and owners and players, backed
into the corner of common sense, acted accordingly.
Here is the part you two need to understand.
Hockey is in a worse state. Much worse.
It's not just me saying so.
"There does not appear to be any compromise on the horizon in the
NHL, " said Howard Fienberg, a senior sporting analyst for the
Washington-based Statistical Assessment Service. "The differences in
baseball were quite minor. The biggest sticking point was possible
"In the NHL, issues include free agency, salary caps, saving the
Canadian teams. The list just goes on and on."
Here is something else to chew on.
For all the fan resentment of how poorly baseball and its players
have gotten along, no fan has complained that the game stinks.
Baseball has Sammy Sosa and Wrigley Field, Barry Bonds and a fresh
assault on a home run record, quaint retro ballparks and charismatic
performers, a national profile in the U.S. and real money from local
broadcast rights and national television deals.
Hockey has the neutral zone trap, Paul Kariya and the Arrowhead
Pond, sterile cookie cutter arenas, dwindling support in traditional
markets such as Boston and Buffalo and, most recently, a reduction of
ESPN broadcasts which really has to smart.
Put it all together, boys. If this isn't urgency, I am strapped to
define what is.
What this game needs is leadership and it's about time the two of
you showed some.
Bob, suck it up and admit that salary drags such as luxury taxes and
hard caps are, in the wake of the baseball deal, a new reality.
Don't wait for a destructive fight that will gut your union. That's
what happened in the NFL and NBA. Most of your players will still
live like Pharaohs and when it comes time to assess blame for high
ticket prices, you can rightly point to ownership as the problem.
Pick up the phone and dial 212.
Gary, stick with the no-interference edict and ignore the Don
Cherrys of the world.
Stop using back-door harassment techniques to hold up valid
contracts. If the New York Rangers are stupid enough to pay players
during a work stoppage, that's their problem. Admit that you gave
away the store in the last negotiation.
Under your watch, the average player salary has increased from
$572,000 to $1.64 million US.
Put your tail between your legs and show a little humility.
The two of you, this is your last kick at the cat. The nuclear
winter forecast for baseball will be just as bad for hockey. You have
a two-year window to save the game, and, not incidentally, your own
Dammit, get to it.