A recent report from Kevin McGran of the Toronto Star includes some troubling news on Bettman's possible strategy during the lockout to get the owners the kind of deal they are seeking:
A league source told the Star that, barring a settlement, commissioner Gary Bettman plans to cancel it in November — to take away any advantage the players may have at the bargaining table because of the game’s popularity.
“Gary told (the board of governors) he was going to cancel the Winter Classic in November because he didn’t want the players to use the game as leverage,” the source said.
If this report is true, then it's clear that Bettman is not the right man for the NHL. Bettman is the worst commissioner in sports, and if you didn't already believe that, this latest news regarding the Winter Classic might finally change your mind.
The Winter Classic isn't just another game: It's a New Year's Day spectacle that has been instrumental in increasing the sport's popularity on a national level since its inception in 2008.
Since the NFL season is over in most cities by Jan. 1, the Winter Classic is an effective way to get fans to move on from football and pay attention to their local NHL team.
The event screams "hey, look at us!" to the rest of the sports world on a day that we normally associate with football. Judging by the good television ratings and positive feedback on the Winter Classic, it's clear that the event does get people to look at the NHL and realize the excitement that the sport can provide.
By threatening to cancel the Winter Classic just to strengthen his owners' position in the current negotiations, Bettman has proven that he's willing to sacrifice the league's marquee regular-season event just to save the owners some money.
It would be really interesting to see the reactions of the Toronto Maple Leafs and Detroit Red Wings owners when learning of Bettman's strategy on how to use the Winter Classic in negotiations. These teams are going to want the huge revenues from this event.
There are so many ways that the Winter Classic benefits the sport, but Bettman is willing to lose all that just to flex his muscles in the current labor negotiations.
This proves, if it wasn't clear already, that Bettman is not willing to put the best interests of the sport ahead of the interests of the owners that he represents. At some point, the commissioner needs to stand up and put hockey first, but it's hard to imagine Bettman ever doing that.
Nicholas Goss is an NHL lead writer at Bleacher Report. He was also the organization's on-site reporter for the 2011 Stanley Cup Final in Boston. Follow him on Twitter.
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