The Vent: ‘Stairway To Bettman’; harder to sympathize with NHLPA

THE VENT is a forum to rants, raves, pleas and laments from hockey fans across the world about the NHL lockout. It runs every Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday. If you've got a take on the lockout and need to let it out, email us at, Subject: The Vent.)

Dan Johnson opens this edition with some skeptism about the players' plight:

Paul Bissonnette, tweeted this back in early September to his twitter followers;

"Question to the fans. If a company you worked for was making money and they asked you to take a 24% pay cut would you do it?"

Every time I hear another story focused on the battle of wits and ultimate stalemate taking place in New York on a somewhat irregular basis, I think about this tweet.

And as much as I want to sympathize with the players in this dispute, it becomes harder and harder everyday.

Many of the most diehard fans of the NHL -- who stuck it out during the last lockout, only to come back and buy expensive jerseys, overpriced beers and even more overpriced tickets -- sit and watch their beloved league implode on itself, again.

Now many of these same fans watch as it happens again. This time is different though: In between lockouts we were faced with an even more catastrophic failure in the form of the recession. Fans, myself included, now are forced to see billionaires say they aren't making enough and millionaires argue that they can't afford to make any less doing a job they love.

We watch from our desks at jobs we never wanted, making paychecks with so few zeroes, they could have a place at a dollar store. A large number watch from their couches, hoping that good news will come from the one distraction they have to the mindless daily task of submitting resumes for jobs.

Many fans were asked that same question that "Biznasty" was asked by their bosses and, without the luxury of moving to Europe to work or holding high profile press conferences or living off of endorsements, were forced to say yes and ask if anything else could be done to keep their jobs. And yes, even then after that indignation, many lost theirs anyway.  Recent college grads, myself included, were forced to take internships, clerical jobs and odd jobs to pay bills, for significantly less than we had hoped in fields we had hoped to never work. Many have families, piling student debt and medical bills, and yet we still say yes. And yes, many of these companies are making more money and, unlike the players, each unemployed person doesn't have millions of loyal fans hoping they'll be able to work soon.

So to answer your question Mr. Bissonnette... Yes, we would. We wouldn't enjoy it but we would.

Especially if our "job" was a sport we loved so much.

The longer this lockout goes, one wonders who often will hear this from fans fed up with both sides.

Frank Incognito has the players' back on this one:

As a fan of the NHL, I can honestly hope and pray that this lock out continues. And, I hope and pray that the NHLPA does not back down and cave to Bettman and the Owners.  Lets be honestly clear, this whole thing is Bettman and the Owners' faults, yet they blame the NHLPA for all the financial problems they are having.

Lets take a closer look.

1. No one told you to sign 2nd and 3rd line players to $5Mil or more contracts. (See Gomez, Cammalleri, Penner, etc.) When GMs make those stupid contract offers to players and just throw the money at them, these players and agents see that and compare it to what their client/player does. That's how arbitration works when it gets there. Scott Gomez got paid $7M to basically do nothing. He didn't score a goal for like 50 games, he did nothing with the Rangers, he did nothing with the Canadians, and yet, he is guaranteed $7M a year for 7 Seasons - Thank You Glen Sather and Jim Dolan, NYR.

How bout Wade Redden; another wonderful Sather and Dolan signing?  Look at Dustin Penner's contract before this year's Stanley Cup Finals. He got $4M in Edmonton for nothing. How bout another brilliant Edmonton move in Sheldon Souray. These stupid signings happen all over the league; my Devils signed Zubrus, Rolston, Holik, and many more garbage players to ridiculous contracts. But yet, it's the players fault they are demanding too much money and they should get their salaries cut.

2. Cap Floor is killing, KILLING, the teams that can't financially offered it. I am totally fine with a cap. I think it offers competitive balance for all teams and gives a lot of teams a chance to win. When was the last time we saw back-to-back Stanley Cup Champions? Detroit in the 90's. However, the Cap Floor has got to go.  If I earn $1.00 and spend $2.00, where the hell am I getting the extra $1.00 from? Idiots, it's called checks and balances.  How can you tell a team to spend $50Mil when they only make $40Mil a season? Teams are in a whole because of that.

3. Outrageous ticket prices. Look, I'm all for ticket prices going up, but let's be real here: You want to take away the money from players and still keep ticket prices the same. That's absurd. Do you know premier seats at the Prudential Center cost $250.00 a ticket? I will admit that comes with an all you can eat buffet. However, Why did you have to do both sides of the rink between the blue lines? Why couldn't you just do the section in between the blue lines behind both benches?  Who goes to a hockey game alone besides reporters? Just to sit in a certain section for two people cost me $500.00. And the Prudential Center isn't the only venue doing this. The new updated Madison Square Garden will feature this, and I know new arenas across the country will feature it as well.  If you cared about this struggling economy, you would lower the prices for the consumer or at least offer competitive realistic prices for the cheap seats.

4. I think it is time for Bettman to finally go. Is there any GM in sports that is hated or has tarnished their sport more than Gary Bettman? Lets face it, three Lockouts, Constant Rule Changes that feature stupid rules (See Trapezoid), constant boos from fans in EVERY single arena. I love it when this guy goes to present the Stanley Cup and you can't hear him from the boo's coming from the arena. I know that the owners love him because he will do and say whatever they want him to say, but lets be clear, his image is not helping the sport and not helping you make money.  Why does Bettman get paid $10M? I never saw him take a puck to the face, or score a Stanley Cup Winning Goal. He does nothing to earn $10Mil. Listen, running a league is challenging, but how can you get paid $10Mil a year when the league is in another lockout every 7-10 years. This man has got to go.

Hey, listen, Bettman deserves his criticism. But do we (a) need to pin rules changes on him  and (b) ignore that many of them made the NHL more exciting than it's ever been, if he is indeed responsible for them?

This is "Gary Bettman", a song inspired by this obscure Led Zeppelin song you may have heard once or twice:

Reader David's had enough with both sides, and already lost him as a fan years ago. But that doesn't mean he doesn't want to take action ... and unionize:

I'm so mad with both sides in this dispute.  I don't really care who wins, I just want it over.

I'd love to promise that I won't return, but the truth is, after the 2004 lockout, I stopped going to games anyway.  The NHL can't lose me as a fan because I haven't given them any money in years.

Fans have virtually no power in this dispute.  We can start all the campaigns and send all the messages we like, but until both sides accept us as a true stakeholder, the only consideration we'll receive are the usual insincere platitudes.

(Frankly I find it insulting to hear anyone say "Its the fans who are suffering" while jeopardizing the sport for the sake of money).

However, drawing on lessons from 2004, I think there is one avenue for fans.  We need to behave like a union as well.  We need to consolidate our opinion and move as a single force.  In 2004, public opinion was overwhelmingly against the players.  I believe that eventually had an effect. The NHLPA caved and owners won.

I think if the same again were to happen again - overwhelmingly public opinion against players, we'd see the same result.  Eventually the NHLPA would give in and the dispute would be over.  Isn't that what we all want?

Don't feel bad for them if they lose even though they lost last time.  None of these people (players and owners alike), appreciate their fortune.  Therefore, they don't deserve it.

Finally, here's Arthur Carlson, short and bitter:

I am a middle class guy who has not got a raise in years, have been backsliding on pay even.

Common for many people I know.

And these banker type people (owners and players alike) are arguing over millions. I don't care if you come back, I have just locked you out....

Well that's a switch-a-roo.

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