NHL Lockout: Gary Bettman's Stubbornness Will Hurt League in Negotiations

Alex BallentineFeatured ColumnistSeptember 14, 2012

NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 13:  Commissioner Gary Bettman of the National Hockey League speaks to the media at Crowne Plaza Times Square on September 13, 2012 in New York City.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

With an impending labor stoppage looming, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman seems set on taking as long as necessary to figure out a new collective bargaining agreement regardless of the consequences.

Bettman told the Associated Press on Thursday:

"We have been clear that the collective bargaining agreement, upon its expiration, needs to have a successful agreement for us to move forward...The league is not in a position, not willing to move forward with another season under the status quo."

On one hand, the commissioner is to be admired for his steadfast approach to what he thinks is best for the league. Then again, if he's wrong, the league is going down a dark path and he's scapegoat No. 1.

While the lockout pits the players against the owners in a fight over hockey-related revenue, the salary cap and all the other aspects that you would find surrounding a collective bargaining agreement, the onus for the lockout still falls directly on Bettman. This will be the third work stoppage during his reign as commissioner of the league.

The most recent lockout, in 2005, cost the league the entire season. From the comments that Bettman has made, he won't hesitate to oversee yet another extensive lockout.

"Two other leagues — the NBA and the NFL — their players have recognized that in these economic times there is a need to retrench."

The question becomes, can the NHL afford to lose games like the NBA did or the NFL could have?

To an extent, the commissioner has a point. The NFL Players Union and owners were able to reach an agreement after the players took a five percent cut in football-related revenue. The players went from receiving 52 percent of the revenue to 47 percent. While that's a sizable difference, it was a reasonable compromise to get the deal done.

However, the NHL owners are asking for a 10 percent decrease for the players from 57 percent to 47 percent. If the lockout does go into effect, Bettman says that the owners could seek to make the players' percentage go down even further.

There's a fine line between being a good negotiator and simply complicating things. If Bettman and the owners do drop the offer once the lockout starts, it could mean that this lockout extends throughout the season.

If that's the case, Bettman's steadfast approach could be horrible news for hockey fans.