In the wake of Saturday's report that Flyers owner Ed Snider, an influential voice within the league, may now be pushing to end the NHL lockout, we revisit a classic British stage play about men of great strength clashing over principles, conscience, dogma and an increasingly obscene amount of money getting flushed down the toilet.
THE STAGE IS DARK, SAVE A SINGLE STAIRCASE AND WICKER BASKET.
BETTMAN: Your Grace--
SNIDER: No courtship, no ceremony, Gary. Be seated. You are my friend, are you not?
BETTMAN: Yes, your Majesty.
SNIDER: And thank God I have a friend for my Commissioner. Readier to be friends, I trust, than he was to be Commissioner.
BETTMAN: My own knowledge of my poor abilities-
SNIDER: I will judge of your abilities, Gary. . . Touching this matter of the divorce with the union, Gary; have you thought of it since we last talked?
BETTMAN: Of little else.
SNIDER: Then you see your way clear to me? To bring a swift end to the matter and allow the games to begin by the first of December?
BETTMAN: Then we should put away our proposals, Sire? Oh, alas as I think of it, I cannot agree with Your Grace. The job is not yet complete.
SNIDER: Then you have not thought enough! Great God, Gary, why do you continue to hold out against the players? Despite the desire of my heart?
BETTMAN: (Draws up his sleeve, baring his arm) There is my right arm. Take your dagger and saw it from my shoulder, and I will laugh and be thankful, if that means I can come with Your Grace with a clear conscience and more than 50% of league revenues and greater restrictions on contracts.
SNIDER: I know it, Gary. I know what promises were made...
BETTMAN: When I took the Great Seal of the Office of NHL Commissioner, your Majesty promised not to pursue me on this matter. The negotiations of new collective bargaining writs was to be my responsibility alone.
SNIDER: Ha! So I break my word, Master Bettman! No no, I'm joking . . . I often think I'm a rough fellow . . . You must consider, Gary, that I stand in peril of my network and, to be sure, my treasury.
BETTMAN: Yes, Your Grace. But the HRR--
SNIDER: The HRR is ambiguous!
BETTMAN: Your Grace, I'm more than fit to meddle in these matters - to me it seems a matter for a man of law from New York--
SNIDER: Gary, Gary, does a man need a referee to tell him when he's committed a penalty? This lockout was a sin, Gary; I admit it; I repent. And the public has punished me; I have no viewers, no advertisers . . . Million after million they've borne me, Gary - all dead this season, or dead within the next months; I never saw the scorn and anger and hatred of the public so clear in anything . . . And I live in Philadelphia!
BETTMAN: Then why does Your Grace ask for my poor support?
SNIDER: Because you are ruthless. What's more to the purpose, you're known to care not a whit for public opinion or adoration . . . There are those like Leipold or Leonsis who follow me because I wear the Flying P, and there are those like Master Dolan who follow me because they are jackals with sharp, tiny teeth and I am their lion. And there is a mass that follows me because it follows anything that gives them a chance at holding the silver chalice. And there is you.
BETTMAN: I am sick to think how much I must displease Your Grace.
SNIDER: I'll never know your true opinion. And that's irksome, Gary, for we warhawks, though we love battle, yet we love a luxurious nest better.
BETTMAN: Then I will tell Your Grace truly what I thought of this, our third work stoppage.
SNIDER: Speak then.
BETTMAN: To me it seemed-delightful.
SNIDER: Mark you, Gary, I'll have no opposition.
BETTMAN: Your Grace?
SNIDER: No opposition, I say! No opposition! Your conscience is your own affair; but you are my Commissioner! There, you have my word-I'll leave you out of it and bring in an independent philosopher if I must. But I don't take it kindly, Gary, and I'll have no opposition! I see how it will be; some others will oppose me. The full-fed, hypocritical, "Small Market Teams"! Ha! As for this, Sir Donald of Fehr! Am I to burn in Hell because the Yormark of Florida, with the Jacobs of Boston's knife to his throat, mouths me CBA drivel? Hypocrites! They're all hypocrites! Mind they did not take you in, Gary! Continue to fight if you will, but I'll brook no opposition-no noise! No words, no signs, no letters, no Internet petitions or heartfelt YouTube videos or cheekily-named blogs.
BETTMAN: I am Your Grace's loyal minister. If I cannot serve Your Grace in this great matter as long as the Union continues to refuse--
SNIDER: I have no viewers! We are losing money by the boat-full. We must play hockey, and they that say no are not only liars . . . but traitors! Mind it, Gary!
BETTMAN: Am I a babbler, Your Grace?
SNIDER: Yes. And you are stubborn.
BETTMAN: I'm sorry, Your Grace.
SNIDER: I must catch the tide or I'll not get back to Richmond Hill. . . No, don't come. Affairs call me to court and so I give you my thanks and say good night. Mind me, Gary. The lockout must end. (He mounts his steed)
(Bill, Duke of Daly descends the stairs)
DALY: What's this? You crossed him.
DALY: You're too nice altogether, boss.
BETTMAN: Mind your house, baldy.
Update: King Edward of Snider doth protest too much.
That sound you hear is Thomas More, Robert Bolt, Paul Scofield, Robert Shaw and Fred Zinnemann simultaneously rolling in their graves.