Did David Stern embarrass the NHL?
- Did David Stern embarrass the NHL?
Media jackals always love to circle an easy victim and then sink their
keyboards in with a vengeance.
For 10 months such print and electronic predators have feasted on the
Thus, it hardly surprised the civilized world that, about one
millisecond after David Stern signed a new NBA collective bargaining
agreement with Billy Hunter, the journalistic jackals jumped the icemen,
The standard question was this: If Stern and Hunter could gift-wrap the
NBA package so fast — and without blowing a season — how come those
(alleged) NHL dolts could not?
Needless to say the press predators — once they get down to the NHL
bones — couldn't care less about an answer.
But there is a good reason why. For starters, Stern in no way
embarrassed his old basketball pal, Gary Bettman by averting a hoops
Two words sum up the differences in the dealings between the NHL and the
NBA: personality and motivation. Start with the former. Stern and
Bettman are cut from the some mold. They are smart New York attorneys,
each with a sense of humor, and principle. Essentially, they are good
guys, who can cut deals with reasonable people. The accent is on
Thus, a reasonable, pragmatic Stern had no problem signing again with
Hunter, primarily because the NBA rep realized the league offer was
sensible. Hunter also saw the devastation around the (NHL) corner and
said, "Not on my block!"
Bettman easily could have nailed down a deal with Hunter had the two
negotiated. Bettman's problem is that Bob Goodenow is not Hunter.
Goodenow is 180 degrees from Hunter in every personality way, shape and
Belligerent and offensive, the NHLPA boss had no intention of playing
the 2004-05 season, not in September, October nor February.
One of the NHL participants tells me: "He never wanted to negotiate."
Unlike Stern, Bettman was — and is — faced with an adversary quite
willing to bring the league down with him. Some believe that he has done
Hunter's union accepts a salary cap. Goodenow wouldn't hear of a cap for
10 years — until last February when he did his classic about-face.
Player anger-frustration with Goodenow's maneuvering most recently was
heard from Jaromir Jagr.
In a statement posted on the Czech Ice Hockey Association's website, the
usually apolitical Jagr ripped Goodenow's anti-cap stance.
"We started the fight because we didn't agree with the introduction of
salary caps," said Jagr. "Now, we'll be happy to get them.
"We didn't expect the owners to be so tough and persistent. It was a
risk that didn't pay off."
The irony of the NBA-NHL comparisons is that hockey was the guinea pig
for the other major sports, especially for the NBA.
And the NHL could least afford to be such a guinea pig. But it was
forced into this position and the NBA was watching.
Dallas Mavericks' owner Mark Cuban made it abundantly clear that his
colleagues observed the NHL pain and realized a deal was better than a
So did David Stern. But he certainly didn't sign a new collective
bargaining agreement to embarrass his buddy, Bettman.
The pity of it all is that the NHL commissioner is stuck with Goodenow
and not Hunter.
Known as "The Hockey Maven" in both local and national circles, Stan
Fischler is one of the most outspoken authorities on the game of hockey.
Fischler can be seen offering NHL analysis on Fox Sports Net and MSG
Network. He also provides studio interviews and pre- and post-game
features and reports for both the Islanders and Devils on FSN.