Monday, February 14, 2005

NHL Burns – Bettman Fiddles

A couple of weeks ago I was sitting on the Ranger bench watching my oldest son and my six year old grandson skating on the Garden ice. It was a Ranger promotion for season ticket holders and a guest. So there was my grandson along with a couple of dozen other Ranger sufferers enjoying the ice that has been denied to our heroes, the Rangers. Yes folks the word is denied, brought to you by the architect of the NHL demise, namely Gary Bettman, NBA refugee.

What has Gary Bettman brought, or is it wrought, to the NHL? As starters he changed the name of the conferences from Prince of Wales, Patrick, Adams and Norris to North, South, East, and West - how imaginative. He probably doesn't even know who Patrick, Adams, Norris were. Or what they represented? But that was minor. Remember the fiasco of 1994. The Rangers had won the cup after a 54 year drought. The Rangers not only excited New Yorkers, they excited the nation. They were responsible for bringing in new fans. They made the covers of national magazines and they were running neck and neck with pro basketball, after baseball and football. That must have scared Bettman because he called a lockout. Yes, at the height of popularity Bettman shut down the NHL. The lockout prevailed long enough to have a shortened season and put hockey back fighting bowling and pool in the TV ratings. If anything of importance besides the decline of the NHL I haven't seen it.

Now we have the ultimate lockout. Could someone explain to me why we hadn't had daily or weekly meetings instead of the sporadic ones that have been going on? Simple, Bettman wants it his way or no way. The players have made a concession. A 24% across the board salary reduction. Not enough says Bettman. OK, but use it as a start for a negotiation. Can't do because Bettman wants a hard salary cap and will settle for nothing less. Where are the rest of the NHL owners? Where are the Great Gretzky and the Great Mario? Two super stars who helped drive up these escalating salaries. Their silence is deafening. I guess both of them are thankful they have franchises in cities that shouldn't even be in the league. NHL burns while Bettman fiddles.

ICINGS: Neil Smith and his wife are breaking up after 15 years together. I say together because Smith's lawyer says that they aren't really married because they wed (?) at some exotic island and for some reason it doesn't count. So Smith wasn't married. That fits. Some people say he was never the Ranger GM.....Back in the early thirties the NHL owners called for a salary cap of $75,000 per team and a high individual salary of $7,500. The NHL threatened a lockout, the players ignored them completely and kept on playing. Too bad they are unionized today. The players could ignore Bateman and keep on playing. Maybe they should form a new league and call it a players league and not invite Wayne and Mario.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

What About The Fans?

A belated holiday greeting to all hockey fans as The Pundit took an elongated rest. I ran into my dentist the other day, Ranger fan and season subscriber. He is feeling withdrawal symptoms. From what? Zogby, yes the political guru, took a poll and 42% knew that the season hadn't started yet. How's that for sport recognition. And the great Mario Lemieux decided that things are getting serious and is now doing one on one with selected players to con them into accepting a deal. I guess as an owner Mario is now getting nervous that if by chance they play and his team makes the playoffs he has a lot to lose. Remember, the owners keep all the money once their team gets into a playoff. So imagine a 25 or 30 game season and then the playoffs. A 2 million dollar a year player will have his salary cut by 24%, player proposal, so now he is down to $1.5 mil/year. He will be only paid for roughly 37% of his salary, means that he will be paid roughly $548K/year. Remember he plays in the playoffs for nothing. Remember when Mario called the NHL a garage league? Guess what? Mario now runs one of the great parking lots. Maybe we should take our lead from the fans in Minnesota. They thrive on College and High School hockey. This may be the time for College Hockey to make their move. Granted they will never attain the position of College Basketball but maybe we should give it a whirl. We could start by all watching the Bean Pot tournament in Boston and then flock to our screens and sites for the NCAA Hockey Tournament. Yes there is a College Hockey NCAA Tournament. Maybe the Dolan's will sponsor it in Madison Square Garden. Don't bet on it, but that's another story for another day.