3317Re: [hockeydisk] NHL: Not sure I agree, but interesting article
- Aug 7, 2005This is EXACTLY what the game of hockey needed. Some other sportsshould learn from the guts the NHL owners had by staying out a seasonand supporting each other in their cause.DAVE
David Elkin <davidmelkin@...> wrote:
CanWest News Service
Sunday, August 07, 2005
MONTREAL -- Are you still angry at Gary Bettman? While the NHL
commissioner took a lot of heat when the league lost an entire season
because of the lockout, the flood of free-agent signings over the past
week has definitely generated excitement with hockey fans. They might
even be thanking Bettman in the future, especially in cities like
Pittsburgh and Edmonton.
While building the NFL into the most successful professional sports
league in North America, former commissioner Pete Rozelle had a simple
philosophy: you're only as strong as your weakest franchise.
Well, the Penguins were the NHL's weakest franchise during the 2003-04
season, losing 18 consecutive games at one point while finishing with
the league's worst record (23-47-8). But that all changed in the past
week, and Mario Lemieux -- and Pittsburgh fans -- can thank Bettman for
Bettman did exactly what the NHL owners paid him to do and something
many people, including former NHLPA president Bob Goodenow, thought was
impossible: keep all 30 owners united in their labour battle.
The cost was huge -- an entire lost season -- but the players eventually
caved in to a $39 million US salary cap. The end result: small-market
teams like the Penguins and Oilers can compete with the big boys.
The Penguins lucked out when they won the draft lottery and selected
phenom Sidney Crosby. But luck had nothing to do with the twice-bankrupt
franchise signing free-agent Sergei Gonchar to a five-year, $25-million
contract on Wednesday. Gonchar has been the NHL's top goal-scoring
defenceman over the last six seasons, and I'm sure Penguins fans are
already drooling about a power play that will include Gonchar, Lemieux,
Crosby and Mark Recchi.
"I think the Penguins have a real shot to win the Stanley Cup," sports
fan Ron Carroll, who grew up in Pittsburgh and remains a die-hard
Penguins fan, told me the day after the Gonchar signing. "This (labour)
deal is bad for the players, but probably saved the game. Every team is
on equal footing now."
Oilers fans also had reason to celebrate Wednesday after the team
acquired defenceman Chris Pronger from the St. Louis Blues. With the new
salary cap, the Blues, who paid Pronger $9.5 million in 2003-04, simply
couldn't afford to keep the 2000 Hart Trophy winner as league MVP. The
Oilers will pay Pronger just over $6 million a season in a new five-year
"This is what the hockey world is right now, and you know something,
this is what the system is supposed to do," Blues general manager Larry
Pleau told Associated Press.
Pronger told reporters in Edmonton: "It seems like the Oilers have
always been the team trading guys away. But with this new landscape,
things are changing."
Are they ever.
What do you think the New York Rangers -- who had the biggest payroll in
the NHL in 2003-04 at $76 million -- were doing Wednesday while teams
like the Penguins, Oilers and Columbus Blue Jackets (who signed
defenceman Bryan Bedard) jumped into the free-agent pool?
According to the New York Times, Rangers president and GM Glen Sather
was telephoning season-ticket holders to thank them for renewing their
subscriptions and promising to build a core of young players from within
The Rangers, who were forced to pay Bobby Holik a $9-million buyout to
get out of the ridiculous five-year, $45-million free-agent contract
they signed him to in the summer of 2002, could have as many as 12
rookies in the lineup this season.
Are you shedding any tears for the Rangers right now? How about for the
Toronto Maple Leafs, whose 2003-04 payroll was $62 million? They were
outbid for the services of Gary Roberts and Joe Nieuwendyk by the
Florida Panthers of all teams.
Bettman has definitely left his mark on the NHL with this new salary
cap, but if I was a team owner I'd be thinking about giving him a very
nice golden handshake right about now. The players will always hate
Bettman for breaking their union and I think a new commissioner (hello,
Wayne Gretzky) would help soothe their feelings and help grow the game
in the future.
As for the fans, they may never change their opinion of Bettman.
"I still think he's a jerk," Penguins fan Carroll said.
© Times Colonist (Victoria) 2005
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