Ending The Cold War

I watched the video, and the rumor is not true. After Commissioner Gary Bettman apologized to fans for the NHL lockout, he did not say, “So we cool now,” drop the mic and leave the stage.

Put-upon hockey aficionados are so understandably jaded at this point, it wouldn’t be a surprise if some of them actually believed the above scenario.

So make no mistake, it is important to the healing process that everyone involved in the league’s work stoppage now show some contrition.

The players can work hard on the ice. (Although they were doing that before.) They can be involved in their local communities. (Although many of them had already made that a priority). Let’s face it, the players can make gestures, but they will be limited in scope…especially as they are dealing with the rigors of a compressed schedule.

Teams can make an effort to reach out to their supporters. They’ll put their best foot forward when it comes to in-game entertainment. (Not that this wasn’t a focus prior to the lockout.) They can send management out to meet with fans and sponsors. They can cut ticket, concession and merchandize prices. The Penguins deserve kudos for being really aggressive in this regard. Some teams will be better positioned to do this, because–if reports are to be believed–the new labor deal doesn’t really do much to fix revenue sharing, but that’s a rant for another day.

The folks with the real power to repair the relationship with fans, though, work in the NHL front office. Here are the big reparations they have proposed to make so far:

 

In all fairness, the collective bargaining agreement hasn’t been officially approved yet. So there could be plenty of plans in the works that we don’t know about. They have said they’ll develop programs.

All we have at the moment, however, is the commissioner apologizing and then failing to make it clear what he has to be sorry for.

As commissioner of the National Hockey League it sometimes falls upon me to make tough decisions that disappoint and occasionally anger players and fans. This was a long and extremely difficult negotiation, one that took a lot longer than anybody wanted.

He was later asked if there was anything he would have done differently.

I’m not going to review the process now. This isn’t the right time to do it…I think this is a day we look forward. There’s no doubt that everybody has a view and strong feelings about what transpired, as I do, but I’m not sure it’s constructive for anybody to go through that.

So this is not the kind of apology you’d make after crashing someone’s car. This is more like what you’d mean if you said, “I’m sorry to hear about your Grandmother’s passing.”

And maybe Bettman isn’t the one who hurt hockey fans. There are those, after all, who argue that he’s just a mouthpiece for the owners. However, Bettman is trying to have it both ways.

He doesn’t want you to believe he’s had a hand in three lockouts, but he also doesn’t want you to believe he’s such a puppet that anyone can do his job.

The truth is he’s either responsible or expendable.

Can he even prevent further labor turbulence? Yes, the new CBA covers a decade, but the alliance with the union is being built or further damaged now.

Bettman seems to understand that the lockout didn’t do anyone any favors.

I know it caused frustration, disappointment and even suffering to a lot of people who have supported the National Hockey League in many different ways.

Thus, in addition to an apology and whatever else they have in store, the league had better offer an explanation for what happened and a course of action to keep it from happening again.

UPDATE: Grant Dyar has made me aware of this gesture by the Kings.

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2 Responses to Ending The Cold War

  1. Paul Wolfe says:

    Sorry Lori, but I’m just not that excited to give up my money to support this nonsense. I play hockey 5 times a week and I coach my son’s mini-mite team, so I’m not some casual fan; hockey is my (and my family’s) life. These two sides spend 4 months arguing over who gets how much money. Did they forget (or just not care) who’s money it was that they were arguing over? Anger is not the enemy of love; apathy is. And I just don’t care if I pay to see another NHL game this season (or at this point, ever).

    • Lori Schmidt says:

      You don’t owe me an apology! Your feelings are understandable. I don’t know that the league understands how much damage that was done.

      They keep comparing this to the 2004-2005 season. I don’t understand how they can’t see this is a different animal.

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