When NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman announced that the league will lock out the players if a new collective bargaining agreement is not reached by Sept. 15 when the current CBA expires, fans immediately started in with venom-filled tweets, messages and comments aimed at Bettman.
Have you ever heard the phrase ‘Don’t shoot the messenger’? Well guess what hockey fans, Bettman isn’t the guy you want to be mad at right now.
What many fans fail to differentiate between is the fact that Bettman isn’t the decision maker. Rather, he works for the decision makers. Bettman represents the owners of the league, all 30 of them, and acts accordingly to their whims and decisions. If the owners refuse to play another season under the current CBA, Bettman simply delivers the message to the fans and media.
In a great article from KuklasKorner a few years back, Bettman’s responsibilities and duties are outlined and explained. In short, Bettman may be the lead negotiator for the new CBA, but he is acting on behalf of the entire Board of Governors, typically comprised of the owners of each NHL team. Whatever his actual opinion may be on matters concerning the NHl, or in this case the new CBA, is a moot point because he negotiates solely on the behalf of the Board.
The problem is that Bettman represents a virtually faceless group of individuals. The average hockey fan probably couldn’t name very many owners around the league, and maybe none outside of the owner of their local or favorite team – if that. So as the figurehead of this group, Bettman receives the fans’ ire when situations like the impending lockout arise. It’s easier to direct your anger at Bettman when the true fault lies with the Board of Governors.
This is in no way an effort to make fans less angry at the idea of a lockout. In fact, devoted fans that go to games and pay premium ticket prices have every right to be upset. After all, the NHL’s revenues reportedly reached an all-time high of $3.3 billion last season, up $1 billion since the last lockout. Rather, this is an attempt to shift the focus and point the finger at the right group of individuals. If you side with the league, you would blame the players, right? Similarly, if you side with the players, the blame should fall squarely on the Board of Governors, not Gary Bettman.