LHH Zeitgeist Op-Ed: Clarifying My 'Greatest Fans' Statement, by Gary Bettman

Gary Bettman is the commissioner of the National Hockey League.

As the National Hockey League and the Players Association negotiate a new collective bargaining agreement, hockey fans everywhere are concerned that another work stoppage may occur. I understand and sympathize with these fears. In light of the intense scrutiny during this time, I made some statements last week that may have been misconstrued by media and the public and I would like to clarify them for our wonderful fans.

When I said the NHL recovered from our last work stoppage because we have the greatest fans in the world, I meant it sincerely. Some in the media think I was intimating that hockey fans were "suckers" and that we are taking advantage of their loyalty. This could not be further from the truth.

I mean, what's not to love about hockey fans? They came back after our work stoppage in 2004. They came back after our work stoppage in 1994. They pretty much forgot that the 1992 strike even happened. They spend a lot of money on tickets and jerseys and third jerseys and jersey shirts and special one-time-only jerseys that will just be worn during the Winter Classic.

And hey, how about that big party, huh? That one game makes more money than the franchise values of all three California teams combined. Why? Because hockey fans are the greatest in the world. Case closed.

Speaking of money, I also said last week that the owners feel they're paying out more money to players than they think they should be. Some short-sighted yellow journalists called this hypocritical - that somehow signing players to lucrative long-term contracts while saying you want to spend less money is contradictory.

Frankly, this is hogwash. What the owners want is a larger share of Hockey Related Revenue. I could try to explain HRR further, but most laymen wouldn't understand this very complex amalgam of assets. I don't expect readers of this or any other hockey blog to have the intelligence or business acumen to follow this fundamental issue that we at the negotiating table are trying to hash out. So let mommy and daddy talk, OK kids?

Let me clarify that. There are a lot of ways for team owners, whom I consider to be my friends, to make money. Right now, most of that money goes to the players. My friends want more of it coming back to them. Why should the players get the lion's share? What did they do to earn it?

Let me clarify that. Players make a lot of money, mainly because the owners sign them to very expensive contracts. What the owners want is a new system that keeps them from spending too much on player contracts. Seven years ago, we lost an entire season because owners wanted to add a salary cap to curb salaries and close the gap between big and small market clubs by keeping teams from spending too much on player contracts. But that system simply does not work.

Let me clarify that. Because it sounds like the owners got the exact system they wanted during the last work stoppage. They did, but...they really didn't.

Let me clarify that clarification...

On second thought, forget it. I find it unproductive to get into a public debate about this. Games will get played when we're good and ready and not a minute before.

And would it kill you guys to use some pictures that don't make me look like either a vampire marionette or The Penguin? I mean, geez.

Gary Bettman
Commissioner
National Hockey And Periodic Lockout League

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This is a work of parody. Although, ironically, the funniest lines in it are the ones that are real.

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