Friday, January 04, 2013

Bettman inches closer to pushing panic button

The news has been reported in several locations on Friday morning, but seems to be getting more credence as reported by Canadian outlets.

One in particular, the Winnipeg Free Press, has revealed that a senior member of the NHL's Board of Governors believes Commissioner Gary Bettman will act to cancel the 2012-13 season in its entirety if a deal on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement is not reached by next Thursday.

Before you are scandalized by that little alarming nugget, realize that next Thursday is the 10th of January, just one day prior to the already known "drop-dead" date for rescuing a partial season if a new Collective Bargaining Agreement is not fashioned.

It has been widely speculated, through a variety of sources, that a last-ditch schedule would feature each club playing 48 games, all within their respective conferences. For that to happen, a deal would have to be reached by the end of next week, for training camps to open on January 12 and the truncated season to commence on January 19.

The paper's most telling paragraph reads like this: "Bettman will be willing to listen and talk with Fehr after he cancels the season but it will be on the basis of doing a deal for the 2013-14 season. Once the commissioner cancels this season, a 50-50 share will no longer be offered and the league will pursue a much revamped package because the owners will have no incentive to make the deal that was on the table."

Taken out of context with the remainder of the piece, it appears that Bettman again is playing the fool by being willing to cancel another season simply because his counterpart refuses to budge more than he himself is willing on behalf of the owners.

Not surprisingly, a BOG member quoted in the story says that Fehr is doing the exact same thing by not capitulating to the league's overtures. It only lends credence to the idea that the primary aim of the league is to break the union and the union will not be broken with Fehr at the helm -- at the cost of a season over ideology and which disastrous option holds the most moral weight.

The union, however, will likely not put off that motion to decertify and then challenge the NHL in the courts with an antitrust suit which will turn out to be similar to the one the NFL endured a year and a half ago when its union dissolved. Of course, if the union is internally dissolved, Fehr will need special dispensation to continue to represent the players' new trade union in future negotiations.

Talks are expected to continue at some point today in New York City, as reports of a larger face-to-face meeting between the owners and union that was supposed to happen on Thursday evening turned out to be premature.

The NHLPA website confirmed that mediator Scott L. Beckenbaugh will meet with representatives from both the league and union. Again, no formal large-group meetings are planned between the sparring factions.

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