Things between the NHL and NHLPA have quickly gone sour, both sides claim to still be far away from reaching an agreement. Last week NHL commissioner Gary Bettman told the media that he was suggesting a 2 week break in negotiations. News that angered NHL players and fans alike, many stating "What's a 2 week break going to solve Gary?!" I'll admit even I was perplexed at the idea of a break when both sides are so far apart, but various reports that have begun to surface put everything into perspective. If I may say well played Bettman, well played.
My initial thoughts after the announcement, were the season was gone, no chance to save it. The two sides would take 2 weeks off (totalling 3 weeks in a row) and then want to break for Christmas and before you know it there wouldn't be any time left for a season. I also thought this was another tactic by Bettman attempting to get the players to "jump the gun" and bite the bullet in order to get back to hockey. But thanks to a news article posted Saturday afternoon things are a little more clear. The article comes out of Philadelphia, and reports that Bettman may be losing his support on the lockout front.
To summarize the article; The biggest supporter of the lockout, Philadelphia Flyers GM Ed Snider is beginning to change his tune. Since the start of the season beginning December 1st has become all but impossible. Bettman's possy of owners is starting to get antsy. The owners were promised an easy win and a major cut of the players share. But since it's become apparent Donald Fehr isn't about to let that happen, the owners now realize the most they will get is a slim victory. And with angry fans and NHL sponsors ready to pull the plug any moment, is this small victory worth sacrificing the season and possibly ruining the NHL empire over?
As Ian White pointed out on Friday, Bettman only needs 7 owners (the NHL owns Phoenix making 8) to agree with him to keep the lockout intact, but if his biggest supporter flips the tables those other 6 may also reconsider. According to reports, Pittsburgh Penguins GM Ray Shero will also change his vote if his counter part and rival Snider does. With those 2 GM's possibly switching sides Bettman would lose not one but two of his biggest supports throughout the lockout. If the Flyers and Penguins representatives switch sides, look for the Bruins and Rangers to switch their votes as well. All the sudden Bettman's 7 little dwarfs are down to 4 and with the power that Snider has an end to the lockout would be almost imminent.
Snider has already suggested using a mediator to help bring the two sides together and has reportedly made his own proposal to end the lockout and presented it to the Board of Governors. Make no mistake Bettman knows just how powerful Snider can be, which is why he requested a 2 week break to give him the opportunity to see where "his 7" stand on the lockout front. By requesting the 2 weeks off without really a valid reason it gives him an opportunity keep up his image with the media and NHLPA. They don't have to know there is a divide in the owners corner and if Bettman plays his cards right he'd be hoping the players cave and request an end to the lockout, making him once again look like the big shot. With the Flyers and Penguins teaming up to potentially stop the lockout, things look bleak for Bettman. Now you're probably wondering why the Flyers and Penguins owners would team up on anything given their on ice rivalry, but it actually makes perfect sense. Two of the higher end franchises in the NHL who have both put together solid teams, one could easily see that both the Penguins and Flyers are two of the dominate forces in the Eastern Conference and a long layoff could cease their momentum.
Bettman's first mistake in this whole situation was promising the owners a big win. Sure he probably had to butter things up to convince the owners a lockout was in their best interest, but the moment the NHLPA hired Donald Fehr it was evident the owners weren't going to get a big win, just look at his track record! Now that the owners realize they aren't going to get what they were promised they don't feel the need to continue this pointless lockout.
Although this predicament raises many questions; Which other owners are now switching sides? Will Snider in the end side with Bettman? Can Bettman survive this lockout? Only time can reveal the answers, but things surrounding the NHL sure are interesting eh? While everyone was starring at the NHLPA and waiting for them to crack, perhaps people should have been paying more attention to the owners; Billionaires can't stand it when their Billions stop rolling in.
The good news is the NHLPA appear to have rejected Bettman's 2 week break idea and are demanding to meet next week. If Fehr smells any kind of blood in the water he'll move quickly and go in for the kill, hopefully catching Bettman and his divided owners off gaurd.