While I don't completely blame the commissioner for everything that's going on (he does answer to the owners after all), we will now take a look at some of Gary Bettman's biggest "foot-in-mouth" quotes during his reign as commissioner. Most of these refer to the most recent CBA, since that is what the league is fighting about now.
Please feel free to add some of your own if you can think of any. I'm sure there are plenty of Bettman quotes or moments that fans have "fond" memories of ever since he took over as commissioner back on February 1, 1993.
"The Canadian franchises and Canada as a market for NHL hockey has always been a priority for us."
This quote almost sounds Orwellian to many Canadian hockey fans as Bettman oversaw the move of both the Quebec Nordiques to Denver in 1995 (where they became the Avalanche) and the departure of the original Winnipeg Jets to Phoenix about a year later.
Many fans and media members have accused Bettman of being anti-Canadian or at least of being more concerned about non-traditional hockey markets in the American south that would help the NHL get a bigger US television contract.
The worm may be turning now, however. The Atlanta Thrashers moved to Winnipeg last year and became the new Jets, while there is now talk of adding new expansion teams in Quebec City and the Toronto area once the lockout ends.
"We know this was a terrible time for everyone associated with our game, ... We pledge to our fans that we will do everything we can to make it up to you."
Those words really meant something in 2005...or at least most fans thought or at least hoped they did.
Now there has to be a caveat added to the quote: "until the next time we have a chance to reduce the players' share of the pie..."
"My feeling is that contracts should always be honored. ... This is a situation where a legally binding contract is not being honored and that's not right..."
This was a quote which emerged from a contract dispute between the Washington Capitals and forward Alexander Semin.
Of course, this may or may not apply to all NHL player contracts. As part of many of the owners' proposals, all player contracts would be cut by a large percentage. This remains a major issue between the two sides as the players' three proposals of a week ago said that all prior contracts should be honored as written.
Oh, by the way, the NHL cut all player salaries across the board in 2005 as part of the last lockout settlement.
"Now the team's ability to compete is based upon its hockey, front office and team-building skills, not on the team's ability to pay. We have emerged as partners with our players and our fans."
The Commissioner touted the last CBA one year after it took effect—the very same CBA he is now fighting so hard to abolish and replace with one even more friendly to the owners.
By the way, 29 of the 30 NHL teams qualified for the playoffs at least once since the last CBA (sorry Maple Leafs fans).
"It takes two sides to make a deal, two sides to negotiate and two sides to make it go bad."
The commissioner made this statement in mid-August of this year. Now that the lockout is in its second month, does this mean that the commissioner is accepting at least part of the blame for the mess the NHL is in?
"Clearly the cap is going up and that's good for everybody." -December 2005
Well, it seemed good at the time, at least. Now, perhaps, Mr. Bettman would say the cap has gone up too much.
The cap going up is considered a success, but apparently it's become a bad thing seven years later.
"To use a hockey analogy, for the first time in a long while, the NHL has momentum. I'm determined to see us build upon it and grow this great game." October 2005
So much for the momentum. In the same speech, the commissioner talked about the league being "reinvigorated." That continued (at least financially) throughout the seven seasons of the last CBA, but apparently, it still wasn't enough.
On September 13, two days before the owners locked out the owners again, Bettman made the following mistake when discussing the last agreement signed in 2005.
"We made, at the time, what we thought was a fair deal,” Bettman said. “It actually turned out to be more fair than perhaps it should have been.”
Of course that wasn't how he meant to put it. I mean, who would be against fairness, right? You know, the whole partnership thing between the players and the owners for the good of the game?
What he meant to say was that the deal, which the owners practically dictated to the players, was too favorable to the players.
Or was it just a Freudian slip?