Is Gary Bettman neutral?

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The Hockey News

The Hockey News

Fall is in the air, something that normally signals the start of hockey season. That hasn’t changed, but as we all know, barring a last-second miracle, the start of 2012-13 won’t happen as scheduled. However, we’ll march on dutifully here at THN, taking whatever questions you have for this mailbag and pursuing stories on hockey that is being played. Thanks as always for your submissions.

Adam, maybe it’s just me, but shouldn’t the commissioner of the NHL be the go-between-guy and not a cheerleader for the owners?

Mary Beth Eno, Everett, Wash.

Mary Beth,

Gary Bettman and his predecessors at NHL headquarters are and were not running a publicly owned business, so no, I don’t think it is fair to expect him to be some arbiter of fairness in his role as commissioner. He was hired by the owners and takes his direction from them.

Some say a commissioner like Canadian Hockey League head honcho David Branch does a much better job of considering both the players’ and owners’ side in his day-to-day work, but the Canadian junior system isn’t a professional league. Branch has said many times he is partially responsible to the teenagers who comprise his player base and their parents. Bettman, on the other hand, has no such issue.

I’ve said it many times – you can criticize Bettman for many things, but he is under no obligation to play peacemaker. He is out to do the best job he can for his employers. Given that he’ll be celebrating his 20th year in office in the new year, you can’t say he hasn’t done so.

Hey Adam! I was wondering if you think the Flames should start their rebuild? If they trade Jarome Iginla or Miikka Kiprusoff I’m afraid they might turn into the hopeless Leafs!

Matthew McCarthy, Portugal Cove, Nfld.

Hey Matthew!

As I’ve written in the pages of THN and on this site, I think the Flames should have begun a basement-to-rooftop rebuild years ago. The lineups they have put together since their 2004 Stanley Cup final appearance have never been able to get them past the first round of the playoffs and Calgary has been running harder and harder just to stand still.

It’s funny you mention the Leafs, because the current path the Flames are on will guarantee they look like Toronto’s NHL team. The Leafs did the same thing – holding on to Mats Sundin until it was too late to get anything in return for him – and have been mired in mediocrity ever since.

The Flames are well on their way to mirroring that destiny. Iginla is entering the final year of his contract, while Kiprusoff has two years left. If Calgary withers again, nobody would or should blame Iginla for moving on. And if he goes, Kiprusoff likely wouldn’t want to stick around, either. Then you have the same rebuilding scenario, only without anything to show for it.

Hey Adam, is there any way I can find out the salaries of NHL coaching staff, GMs and other management staff?

Joe Cordova, Burnaby, B.C.

Hey Joe,

You might find the occasional report on a certain GM or coach’s payday, but there is no public disclosure of management salaries as there is for players. Remember, one of the biggest reasons NHLer contracts were revealed in the first place was because the NHLPA believed it would lead to salary escalation. In that regard, it has worked wonderfully.

That said, there is no similar drive from the coach or GM community to do the same thing. That’s not to say either of those groups would say no to a bigger paycheck. But because they’re not the on-ice product, and because they’re usually much closer to team ownership, there’s no impetus for them to be openly aggressive about receiving more money.

Hi Adam! I appreciate your work a lot. You have some intriguing views of the game. But on to my question: If the NHL locks out the players for this season, do you think the players could put some pressure on the owners by refusing to play in the NHL for season 2013-2014? To me it seems that the owners want to get as much money out of the game as possible, but all they do is hurt that outcome. They pay insane amounts of money on players with long-term contracts and then demand the players to give up more money.

If they can't come up with a new CBA for this season, who would it hurt more if the 2013-2014 season would be cancelled also? And do the players have that option or do their contracts oblige them to play? Turned out to be more than one question, but I hope you could answer. Thanks.

Miika Haapalainen, Oulu, Finland

Hi Miika!

No, the players aren’t prepared to sit out one full season, let alone two. That was the heavily flawed strategy of former NHLPA executive director Bob Goodenow and it totally discounted the fact that, regardless of how much money players were making, they all were living lifestyles that required a continuous cash flow to maintain.

There is no way third- or fourth-liners or fifth and sixth defensemen were managing their money well enough to sit out for two seasons and the same likely is true now. The owners have the financial wherewithal to outlast the players in that type of showdown and Don Fehr and the PA are well aware they can’t win.

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