September 13, 2012; New York, NY, USA; NHL commissioner Gary Bettman speaks during a press conference at the Crowne Plaza Times Square. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-US PRESSWIRE

The Bettman Hypocrisy

Here we are, just over 24 hours from the beginning of a lockout that will delay the start of the NHL season, if not scrub it altogether.   Yesterday both Gary Bettman and Donald Fehr had their respective grandstanding press conferences stating their cases and in essence blame the other side for not being able to reach an agreement.

Maybe it’s just me, but every time I see Gary Bettman speak in public I want to strangle him Jean Crretien style.  He just comes off so arrogant and insincere it drives me crazy.  His statement that “nobody wants to make a deal and play hockey more than I do” just smacks of ignorance from a man who uses the game for a paycheck.

Listen, the fact that Bettman complains that over a dozen teams are losing money might be valid, but he needs to look at the business model that he demanded be put into place, the one that cost the League the entire 2004-05 season. That system of “cost certainty”. Worked wonders for the rich teams, but hung the poor teams out to dry big time.  And face facts, there are more poor teams than rich ones in the NHL.

Not to overburden you with facts and figures, but check out the following numbers extracted from Forbes Magazine’s valuation of NHL franchises (numbers are based on 2010-11 season):

  • The top three revenue clubs (TOR, MTL, NYR) all paid out less than 45% of their substantial revenues on player expenses.
  • Three teams (CBJ, NYI, PHX) paid 70% of their revenues to player expenses.
  • Sixteen teams paid more than 60% of their revenues to player expenses

So there are two conclusions that can be drawn from the above:  1) The rich got richer over the past 7 years ; 2) The salary floor that came along with the cap has really hurt the smaller markets.

Bettman’s quest for the cap in 2004 might have worked for some teams,  but for a majority of the teams the cost certainty that was promised didn’t come as advertised.

And somehow Bettman blames the players?  The numbers show that the league as a whole is making money, and it is largely going directly into the pockets of a select few owners.  Until these owners realize that the only way for a truly level playing field and for all franchises to succeed is to spread the wealth to all teams.  Until that is done, Bettman and the owners have absolutely no right to demand the players fix it right away by taking a rollback that will put even more money in the pockets of Leafs, Canadiens, Rangers and Red Wings owners.

And quite frankly, I don’t know why the likes of Florida, The Islanders and the other victims of the cap era continue to put up with it.

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