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Bettman: This Process Is Over, NHL Prepared to Martyr Itself

Dec 7, 2012, 1:13 AM EDT

NHL labor negotiations once again hit a snag on Thursday, to
the surprise of nobody – although I’m not sure anybody was quite prepared for
what happened next. To be blunt, what followed the latest break in talks could
only be described as a complete and utter meltdown, with commissioner Gary
Bettman taking center stage for this tragic theater.

To make a long story short, the reported cause of the latest rift is the NHL
owners made a take-it-or-leave-it offer to the players, who in turn responded
with what is commonly referred to as a counteroffer. Apparently unhappy with any
response that deviated from, “Yes,” the owners took their puck and went home.

That in itself isn’t a big deal – extremely frustrating,
but not end-of-the-world stuff. NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr delivered
a pointed press conference explaining the union’s positions in some of the
discussions over the past week, then calmly took questions. The sides sounded
close. He even used the word “close.”

Then Bettman spoke. He always does that!

Visibly upset, Bettman raged for nine minutes, then he and
deputy commissioner Bill Daly uncomfortably answered questions for what seemed
like an eternity. Video below, but here are a few of the highlights:

  • • “The owners … said they don’t know what happened, but this
    process is over.”
  • • “Anything we put on the table this week is off the table.”
  • • “[Five-year max length on player contracts are] the hill we’ll
    die on.”

So as far as rhetoric goes, we are to understand that the
owners are done talking for right now, they are actually moving backwards on several
key positions, and a human being could be martyred over one of these
issues in particular. Because those are all perfectly reasonable attitudes to take.

Obviously, there is so much more to this story, and we have
some great links to go with the Bettman videos, but here is what you need to
know – that is if you still care of course. All is not lost just yet. There is –
well, there was anyway – a framework for a CBA that had people on both sides optimistic. If discussions pick back up
next week, the frost could thaw, and hockey may yet ring in the New Year.

Worst case scenario: this lockout is the hill the NHL will
die on. Such a shame, because its future looked so bright.

Read More:

>> NHL rejects union’s offer as talks break down [CSN]
>> Four owners release statement, express ‘disillusionment’ [Puck Daddy]
>> You have got to be kidding me [ESPN]