Takin' a T/O With BT: Bettman's Near-Miss with Pavel Datsyuk and Nik Lidstrom

xx yySenior Writer IJanuary 26, 2009

I feel sorry for Gary Bettman. I really do.

Every hockey fan in the world is out to get him. They're fed up with his "development" of "markets" such as Southern Florida, Atlanta, and Nashville. On that note, Canadians feel that they've been 'cold-shouldered' in regards to the expansion dream, and whenever anyone brings up the lockout, it always goes solely to Bettman's credit.

And while I've never been his biggest supporter, I feel for Gary. Much like George Bush, they were put in positions where they tried to surround themselves with people who would know what's best and help steer them in the right direction. Each had big dreams and even bigger problems.

Bush's advantage was a pre-ordained shelf-life of eight-years maximum.

But while the All Star festivities in Montreal were going on with the players attending their 'Red Carpet' ceremonies, participating in the skills competition, and finally giving us a period of the All Star game worth watching once it hit overtime and a penalty called, Gary got something right.

Sort of.

Sidenote: I wrote about this last night, but I think we finally found the solution to to All Star Game Doldrums: Call more penalties. The minute that penalty was called against Mike Komisarek, the ice opened up, the game became free-flowing and filled with chances, and it was exciting.

I don't care if we need to start calling ridiculous penalties in All Star games, more penalties makes it more watchable.

I love easy math.

In suspending Nik Lidstrom and Pavel Datsyuk of the Detroit Red Wings' for one game Bettman and the NHL made a stand about how important this game was to the League, and how paramount the game was to the fan's experiences of the season.

In some ways, a good move. In others, not so much.

He also showed that selling the game, no matter how obscure some of his strategies seem to onlookers sometimes, is his top priority.

What he also did though, was confuse an entire fan base (and additional organizations) as to the necessity of a suspension for missing a game due to injury, while inciting the NHL Players' Association.

In making a seemingly 'spur of the moment' ruling to seemingly pressure players into their attendance, Bettman comes off more as a bully than the trendy leader of the NHL.

Allegedly, this rule is instituted in the NBA—having not followed the National Basketball Association very closely, I wouldn't be the best person to ask about that—and it's fairly logical: At your league's showcase event, you want to showcase your best from the across your league without any exceptions, like a proud parent posting a report card on the fridge.

But if Bettman wanted to institute a rule of this magnitude that wouldn't only affect the All-Star game itself, but the regular season, a seemingly knee-jerk reaction doesn't seem like the most glorified option.

As Bettman has done with the argument over fighting in hockey, the decision on this could've been delayed and addressed at a later date, so that these same problems wouldn't arise at next year's All Star game, or for those of years to come for that matter.

In the mean time, the league could have issued fines for the absences, with the funds being directly donated to Right to Play which, as it still seems unfair to fine rehabbing players, would have salvaged the league's P.R. reps some work.

As the All Star game unfolded last night however, you would've been hard-pressed to notice the lack of representation of one of the league's best teams (which was buoyed by the fact Detroit refused to send additional stars after Lidstrom and Datsyuk dropped out).

The stars still came out to show off their skills with the puck, and with the depth of young talent around the league right now, the drop off is imperceptible.

When Detroit visits Columbus Tuesday evening though, the lack of Nik Lidstrom and Pavel Datsyuk will be noticeable both for the Red Wings, and the opposing Blue Jackets.

But while the Wings' have agreed to have Lidstrom and Datsyuk sit out tomorrow night, problems still may be over the horizon for the league.

After all, Datsyuk was injured in the game prior to the All Star game, making it impossible for him to miss the game before the break (one of the stipulations to avoid the suspension), resulting in Datsyuk requiring the break to heal his wounds.

Datsyuk has also been heavily responsible for carrying over the success of one of the most consistently dominating franchises in the league over the past few years, become a true fan-favorite and dominating on-ice presence comitted to winning.

Nik Lidstrom has been an All Star his entire career. With his unprecedented performance as one of the league's greatest defenseman ever he's garnered more notoriety than some teams, played in ten All Star games, and is a six-time Norris Trophy recipient.

A cruel twist of fate, especially for two who shook hands in the presence of the most hallowed trophy in the history of sports last Spring.

But if Lidstrom and Datsyuk were suspended does this mean that if Sidney Crosby, Bettman's beloved Penguin Captain, would have been suspended as well?

Who knows, but if this policy is kept, then we may see more unfortunate circumstances than warranted ones.

The rumor circulating now is that a case-by-case assessment will probably be taken into account for family situations both fortunate and burdened but it still simply looks to be a needless tightening of the screws by a man who's been wound around by the media too many times.

Bryan Thiel is a Senior Writer and an NHL Community Leader for Bleacher Report. If you want to get in contact with Bryan you can do so through his profile, and you can also check out all of his previous work in his archives.


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