I’m about to say something that few folks in the history of the world have ever said. I feel bad for Gary Bettman.
He may be one of the more smug characters on the face of the earth, but he’s not nearly as responsible for the current NHL lockout as he’s been made out to be. Most of the vitriol from fans has been directed towards Bettman, somewhat inexplicably. That’s not to say that his hands are clean in all of this. But to say one man is responsible for this lockout is comical, as well as incorrect.
It’s more like 30.
I’m not a fan of Gary Bettman in any way, shape, or form. But it’s impossible to deny the growth of that the game has seen under his watch. Popularity of the game overall is way up, and revenues have sky-rocketed. According to everyone except the actual team owners.
But to hear the fans tell it, Bettman is intentionally working to sabotage all of that growth. He wanted this lockout to happen, and that’s why we are where we are, wondering if there will even be a season this year.
There’s a lot Bettman could have done to help avoid a lockout, like acting as more of a mediator, rather than as a puppet and a voice for the owners. But that’s really any commissioner, in any professional sport. Perhaps, rather than continually threatening a lockout, Bettman could have worked harder to bring both sides back to the negotiating table.
Maybe Bettman talking about the loyalty of the fans, which would bring them back even after another lockout, was a little too real for many that follow the league. More likely, it’s probably the fact that he’s the easiest figurehead to point out and fans can just throw their blame at him.
But if fans really wanted to direct their anger at someone over this lockout, point it straight at the owners. Bettman hasn’t openly rooted for a lockout like these men have. Nor is he the one demanding players take paycuts for contracts that the owners themselves signed them to. The owners are, by far, more at fault than anyone in this situation.
This lockout is a tale of greed. Sure, there is greed to a certain degree on the part of the players, but the bulk of the responsibility for this lockout falls on the owners. They should be the ones fans are directing their distress over another potentially lost season, not so much Gary Bettman.
Again, to clarify, Bettman isn’t completely clean. He has his faults in all of this as well, and they’re big. But the fact remains that this is an owners lockout. Blame them.