You'll find in the course of labor disputes, there's always a lot of rhetoric. Most of it is just noise. Most of it is misinformed. There's propaganda. It's just a fact of life that you live with.
>> Gary Bettman, speaking Sunday with the Winnipeg Free Press
Gary Bettman should know this better than anybody else in the sporting world. The NHL commissioner has been through three work stoppages since taking over in 1993 and he's more used to the back-and-forth of labor talks than anybody else in professional sports. Yes, even more than his adversary, Don Fehr.
And his experience also means that he's really good at using rhetoric and adding to the noise and spreading the misinformation and the propaganda. It's just a fact that he lives with.
If you missed it over the weekend, Frank Seravalli of the Philadelphia Daily News wrote a great piece on how Philadelphia Flyers chairman Ed Snider has grown discontent with this ongoing lockout. Snider has of course been a loyal follower of Bettman for years, and it's pretty clear why.
The Flyers have made a ton of money since the last lockout. Player costs have gone down dramatically, ticket prices have risen, they've hosted a Winter Classic, participated in another, have been in the Stanley Cup Finals and the NHL under Bettman's watch is married to Snider's corporate brothers at Comcast/NBC Universal for the next decade. Things have been good to Ed Snider in the last seven years and Gary Bettman is a big part of the reason why.
But as the 2012 lockout continues, the Flyers are among those hurting more than most. They lose money with every single home game lost, and it's no surprise that sponsors both locally and nationally are losing interest with the game. How can they support a league that stops playing every time the CBA is up for renewal?
Beyond that, the revenue split is almost certainly already nailed down at 50/50 or somewhere close to that figure. The remaining issues at stake are mostly contracting issues, all of which are targeted at limiting teams like the Flyers from doing business and finding loopholes like they have over the last seven years -- no more front-loaded contracts, a tighter hold on free agency, etc. The revenue sharing debate will almost certainly hurt the Flyers as well, since the union is firm on their desire to have big-market clubs like Philly contribute more to the pot.
In short, 60-plus days into this lockout, it's hurting the Flyers more than it could ever help.
Put simply: Snider and the rest of the NHL's owners were promised a big win by Bettman, with player concessions on revenue division and contracting rights. The best they'll get now is a small win in revenue split - coupled with a demoralized fan base and all-important corporate sponsors that are ready to quit.
A source familiar with Snider's thinking characterized it as: "If this is the deal we are going to get, what's the point of dragging this out?"
The Flyers essentially have nothing to gain from this lockout at this point. They want to play hockey, and they have every reason to believe we're reaching a point where the lockout is hurting more than it could possibly help. We're all pissed off and completely disinterested and turning to other entertainment. The Flyers brand is hurting.
As you'd expect, Snider denounced on Seravalli's report in a released statement Saturday afternoon.
"An article appearing in today's Philadelphia Daily News is absolutely erroneous," Snider said. "I am a solid supporter of National Hockey League Commissioner Gary Bettman and the League in this unfortunate situation.
"Like all fans, players, owners and League officials, I am extremely hopeful that an agreement can be reached and we can eventually be playing hockey again soon. League rules prevent me and all owners from making any comments on the labor negotiations. I will continue to honor that and not make any further comments."
The Daily News stood by their reporting following Snider's statement, as you'd expect. Then, on Monday, Bettman's interview with the Winnipeg Free Press was published. The commissioner was asked about the DN story.
It was a fabrication. Ed Snider is the one who told me about the article when he found out about it and he was terribly upset. He's in Europe and it was his idea to put out a statement. Anyone who doubts the resolve of ownership is either uninformed or (being) intentionally misleading.
Calling a journalists work "fabricated" is quite the accusation, and again on Monday morning, Seravalli and the Daily News stood by their reporting.
It's really not all that hard to cut through the bullshit here. Of course Bettman is going to lash out at a report that claims one of the most powerful owners in the league has gone rogue during his lockout. Of course that owner will stand by his league publicly, even if behind the scenes he's against this now officially ridiculous lockout.
But as Bettman says -- and he knows better than anyone, remember -- there's a lot of rhetoric thrown around during work stoppages. Cut through it all and just look at the facts.
Is Ed Snider benefitting from lockout as it enters Day 66 and beyond? As his team has missed 13 home games? As the Flyers are rapidly being forgotten about, at least for the time being, behind other sports and other entertainment options?
It's pretty clear that Ed Snider is fed up with this lockout, even if his public rhetoric says otherwise.