The NHL lockout appears to be a thing of the past, with a vote by the NHL's Board of Governors and the NHL players needed to get players in training camp and preparing for the season.
The first regular-season games should be played Jan. 19 (source: TSN.ca).
But severe damage has been done by the NHL's third lockout during Gary Bettman's run as commissioner.
Bettman was an unpopular figure long before players were locked out on Sept. 15. However, that lack of support was nothing compared to the way he stands with the public at this point.
We have interpreted the lockout from afar. We have not had any direct contact with the commissioner, who has been on the job for 20 years.
However, we would like to ask Bettman questions.
There is a burning question we would like to ask Bettman, but we would have to get to that question by asking him several others along the way.
Here's how we would start off:
"The NHL locked out its players in 2004-05 and the season was canceled. Why did you lock the players out again so soon? Why did you not sit down with the NHLPA six months before the end of last season?"
Bettman would probably respond that it takes two to tango and the NHLPA did not step forward to talk either. That would lead to the next question.
"You reported that revenues for the NHL have never been higher. The NHL also signed a 10-year, $2 billion deal with NBC in 2011. That created business momentum. Why would you risk that momentum by locking the players out?"
Bettman would explain that greater revenues don't mean greater profits and that the move was necessary (source: Forbes.com).
"Why did you go for weeks at a time without talking to the NHLPA? Why couldn't you develop a dialogue with NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr until the last minute?"
Bettman would say that the same question could be asked of Fehr.
"However, Fehr had a long history of representing Major League Baseball players and MLB adversaries always respected Fehr's professional demeanor and his reputation for telling the truth (source: New York Times). Why would it be so hard to sit down and talk to him?"
Bettman would get uncomfortable with that question.
The follow-up would be a question about the NHL's tactics during the negotiations. "Why did you not go back-and-forth with the players? When you presented an offer and they responded with a counteroffer, you walked out, met the media and got angry. Since when is that negotiating?"
Bettman would grow even more uncomfortable.
"How will the NHL repair its relationship with its business partners and with the players? How will the NHL make up with the fans after keeping them from the sport they love for nearly four months?"
We wait incredulously for this answer. We assume there will be some giveaway that may or may not provide some satisfaction
Finally, the question that needs to be asked more than any other:
"When will you be stepping down from your position and letting someone who cares about the sport take over as commissioner. The NHL is a lot more than a business, and you don't realize that."
We wait anxiously for that answer.