You have to give NHL commissioner Gary Bettman credit for one thing: in a pro sports landscape run by the senile (Bud Selig, MLB), a sleazy used car salesman (David Stern, NBA) and a fake tough guy (Roger Goodell, NFL), he still manages to be the most incompetent leader of them all. For the fourth time in 20 years, the NHL is currently in yet another lockout after not coming to terms on a new collective bargaining agreement on Saturday night.
For a league that had just started to make a national impact after missing the entire 2004-05 season due to the last lockout, this is exactly the last thing the NHL or its devoted fan base deserves. The Bruins would have reported to training camp this Friday, with rookies already there, but that won’t happen. The preseason is in jeopardy and although the regular season isn’t expected to be entirely wiped out, who knows at this point? The difference between the NFL and NBA lockouts of last year and the current NHL lockout is that the NHL is the one league that really won’t come through this type of thing unscathed.
As we all expected the NFL didn’t miss any regular season time, so in a few years nobody will ever remember that happened. Likewise, the NBA chopped off a few meaningless months of the regular season which in the end, barely mattered. I’m not going to pretend that all 82 regular season games in the NHL are vitally important but it’s more about the message the owners have sent the fans: we still don’t care about you. Consider Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs to be the anti-Bob Kraft in these miserable proceedings. Unlike the Patriots owner, who was instrumental in ending the NFL lockout, Jacobs is one of the main voices pitted against the NHLPA (player’s association) in the room for the NHL meetings.
To make matters worse, he’s the CEO and chairman of Delaware North Companies, which owns the concession stands at TD Garden. That means even during Celtics games this winter, Mr. Burns from the Simpsons, I mean Jeremy Jacobs will be raking in the dough. Ugh.
The weirdest part locally is that the Bruins spent like crazy before the lockout (when you can’t make personnel moves): they signed Brad Marchand, Tyler Seguin and Milan Lucic to long-term extensions. There is nothing wrong with any of those guys since they are the team’s present and future, but why did they have to rush it then? Why not wait until during the season, if it happens?
After all the progress that the Bruins have made in the last five years on the ice and with fans, it would truly be a shame to throw it away over some petty bargaining differences.