NHL Lockout 2012: Gary Bettman's Stance on Winter Classic Is Concerning

Ryan RudnanskySenior Writer ISeptember 21, 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

If we needed any more proof that NHL commissioner Gary Bettman was going to be ruthless in negotiations during the lockout, we got it on Friday when the Toronto Star reported that Bettman plans to cancel the 2013 Winter Classic.

There was hope that the NHLPA and the league would come to a resolution because of the Winter Classic, which brings in a great deal of revenue for the NHL.

But the leverage the players thought they had may be up in flames now because Bettman makes his stance clear with his latest strategy: the league is prepared to wait it out until it gets what it wants.

So much for peace and love on Earth, eh?

You'll remember that Bettman and the owners asked players to take a 24 percent cut to their salaries in the original proposal for the new collective bargaining agreement, via the Philadelphia Inquirer. When that didn't work, the NHL cut that number down to 9.7 percent, but the number was still too high for the players.

Players agreed to take a pay cut, but wanted revenue sharing included in the deal. Bettman wouldn't budge, and now here we are, in danger of the entire 2012-2013 season being forfeited, including the Winter Classic.

The fact remains—like in most lockouts—that the owners are better prepared than the players to wait this one out. You hope that the owners and Bettman compromise to get the season underway, but the latest plans to axe the Winter Classic reveal that the league at present is truly in it for the money and not the game.

Could this be an empty threat for the NHL to gain leverage?

Possibly, but it's hard to imagine the league budging on account of the Winter Classic anyway. Professional sports leagues prepare for this kind of thing, and the NHL could just as well have pocket aces in its hands as it could a seven-deuce unsuited.


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