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NHL GMs should leave well enough alone with overtime/shootout format

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NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and KISS

The shootout is a hit with fans of Gary Bettman’s NHL, so why play a different tune? (Robert Beck/SI)

By Allan Muir

Gary Bettman’s a smart guy and all, but he missed the chance of a lifetime when he agreed to that Stadium Series photo op with the legendary rock band KISS. Instead of grinning and posing, he should have been taking notes.

Say what you will about their musical legacy, but Gene Simmons (who has the commish in a headlock) and Paul Stanley (on the far left, in the photo) are financial titans. They’re still filling arenas around the world 40 years into a career that started with a gimmick. And if there’s a buck to be made from their devoted legion of fans, it’ll turn up in the band’s bank account in a New York minute.

Long ago, KISS figured out a simple truth: You can reinvent yourself as often as you’d like, but ultimately the smart thing to do is to shut up and play the hits.

In other words, give the paying customers what they want, and they’ll keep coming back for more.

Seems simple enough, but that logic is lost on some of the tall foreheads who are gathering to discuss the state of the NHL during the next three days in Boca Raton, Fla. Topping the agenda: minimizing the impact of the shootout.

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  • Published On Mar 10, 2014
  • Shawn Thornton of Bruins to appeal 15-game suspension for Orpik attack

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    By Allan Muir

    Shawn Thornton may be genuinely remorseful about knocking out an unsuspecting Brooks Orpik, but that doesn’t mean that he’ll accept his 15-game suspension without a fight

    It was confirmed by the NHLPA just before today’s 4 p.m. deadline that the Bruins enforcer would contest the ruling handed down on Saturday by the NHL’s Department of Player Safety.

    But while he has every right to the appeal, he’ll be in tough to convince Commissioner Gary Bettman that he deserves leniency, even as a first-time offender.

    MUIR: NHL sends clear message with Thornton’s 15-game ban

    Bettman, who earlier this year upheld Patrick Kaleta’s 10-game suspension in the first major test of the new two-step appeal process, has one overriding concern: to ensure that the league is seen as being strict and firm in cases where a head injury is sustained. Diminishing that perception in any way could expose the league to legal liability down the line.

    That doesn’t mean this is a pointless exercise, however. Bettman reduced a suspension to habitual offender Raffi Torres from 25 games to 21 after his infamous 2012 playoff assault on Marian Hossa. If Torres caught a break, anyone could.

    But if Bettman holds the line as expected, Thornton can take his appeal one step further to an independent arbitrator. Kaleta chose not to pursue that route, but the NHLPA may “encourage” Thornton to serve as the test case for this right, which was newly acquired in the most recent CBA.

    There’s no word yet on when the initial appeal will take place. We’ll update when we know more.


  • Published On Dec 16, 2013
  • Patrick Kaleta’s suspension upheld by NHL; Does NHLPA dare appeal again?

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    By Allan Muir

    In a perfect world, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman would have sat patiently through the more than three hours of testimony during Monday’s appeal proceedings for Patrick Kaleta’s 10-game head shot suspension. Then he would have stroked his chin, deliberated for about five seconds and said, “You know what? Let’s make it 20.”

    Instead, he did what most observers figured he would. He upheld the suspension that was initially handed down last week by discipline czar Brendan Shanahan, ensuring that the Sabres’ serial predator would be kept off NHL ice for the better part of a month.

    Not ideal, but it could have been worse. Bettman could have bought in to the laughable defense posed by the NHLPA that no rules had been broken because “the contact to [Jack] Johnson’s head was unavoidable.” Or that Shanahan failed to consider that a “material change to the body of [Johnson] immediately prior to the hit” significantly contributed to the head shot.

    Or he could have agreed with the PA’s contention that the length of the suspension was “disproportionate and excessive” because Shanahan improperly considered Kaleta’s previous violations.

    Instead, Bettman slapped those lightweight arguments down in his 17-page decision and called out Kaleta for being the punk that he is.

    GALLERY: NHL’s dirtiest players

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  • Published On Oct 24, 2013
  • Stanley Cup Final: Gary Bettman booed as usual after Blackhawks win Game 6

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    By John Rolfe

    Did you expect anything other than a robustly negative reception for the Lord of the Lockout? Fans may have forgiven the NHL for depriving them of half a season — the great postseason certainly helped soothe inflamed passions — but they didn’t forget. If anything, this year’s sour serenade was one of the most highly anticipated of the Commissioner’s 20-year tenure, and it didn’t disappoint.


  • Published On Jun 25, 2013
  • Joffrey Lupul knocks Victor Hedman’s block off with the commish in the house

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    By Allan Muir

    Good thing the Maple Leafs know how to play without Joffrey Lupul. They could be doing a bit more of it very soon.

    Lupul, who just returned to action Saturday after missing the last two months of the season with a broken arm, is all but certain to be suspended after a flagrant elbow to the noggin of Tampa defender Victor Hedman Wednesday night.

    This head shot was so blatant it’s sure to end up on the league’s how-not-to video compilation.

    Was the hit late? Check.

    Was the head the principal point of contact? Check.

    Did his skates leave the ice prior to the hit? Oh yeah, they do.

    The only mitigating factor in Lupul’s defense is that Hedman, though clearly dazed in the aftermath, was able to return to action later in the period. Hopefully he won’t have any late-onset symptoms in the next 24 hours.

    As for Lupul, well, the timing couldn’t have been worse. He was brilliant in his return on Saturday, netting a pair of goals against the Jets, and scored the opening tally in Toronto’s 4-2 win over the Bolts tonight. He was clearly feeling it after that lengthy layoff. Now he’s likely to be out for 2-3 games, which would include a critical home-and-home duet with the Boston Bruins.

    And speaking of bad timing: It’s probably best not to knock the block off an opponent when Gary Bettman, Colin Campbell and half of the NHL’s heirarchy are in the building.


  • Published On Mar 20, 2013
  • Top Line: Gary Bettman on Oprah? Yes, Please!; more links

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    Gary Bettman

    Is the Commissioner keeping things from us that we’d like to know? (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

    By Allan Muir

     A simple yes or no question. The great Scott Feschuk imagines a world where the commish channels his inner Lance Armstrong and fesses up on Oprah’s couch. Also, free puppies!

     Something old, something new. True fact. More Minnesotans kept warm during the lockout by wearing a Wild sweater – Zach Parise or Ryan Suter – than by burning an effigy of Bettman. The Wild faithful finally get to see their pricey free agents don the togs tonight, along with rookies Mikael Granlund and Mat Dumba.

     Wishful thinking. The Sens start the season with three goalies and the belief that Ben Bishop could net a top-four defender in trade. Yeah, for a 26-year-old with a 7-8-3 career record.

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  • Published On Jan 19, 2013
  • Gary Bettman’s lockout apology: what he should have said

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    By Stu Hackel

    With his expression of sorrow for the lockout he engineered, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman hopes to turn the page and put the focus of the fans, players, sponsors and media back on the ice where, he said, the attention belongs.

    What he stopped short of expressing was a pledge that he would commit to working with the NHLPA to find a way of preventing anything like what we just went through from happening again.

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  • Published On Jan 10, 2013
  • Is Gary Bettman in trouble?

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    Gary Bettman

    The NHL’s wartime consigliere, Gary Bettman must answer to the Board of Governors in the aftermath of the lockout. (Mary Altaffer/AP)

    By Stu Hackel

    In the aftermath of the lockout, many people have discussed how the NHL should express its regret to fans. ESPN.com’s Pierre Lebrun had a list of 10 things the league could do, the top one being free access to the Center Ice TV package — an idea that others endorse, but it will likely never happen because, as Steve Lepore explained in his Puck The Media blog, it’s not solely the property of the league to give away.

    Ken Campbell of The Hockey News had another idea: Fire Gary Bettman.

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  • Published On Jan 08, 2013
  • Tentative deal reached to end lockout

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     KWAK: Who got what? | TIMELINE: Milestone moments | GALLERY: Biggest contracts
    By Stu Hackel

    At 5 a.m. on Sunday morning, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and NHLPA Executive Director Don Fehr stepped before reporters’ microphones at a midtown Manhattan hotel to announce they had reached an agreement on the framework of a deal to end the owners’ 113-day lockout of the players. The agreement came after a marathon bargaining session of 16 hours, and a typically stormy week of talks in which the distrust between the sides — something that was a near-constant for the length of this process — made some people wonder if the season could be saved.

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  • Published On Jan 06, 2013
  • UPDATED: Toxic atmosphere engulfs CBA talks, then subsides

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    Chris Phillips

    Senators blueliner Chris Phillips says the NHL tried to pull a couple of “dirty tricks” on the players. (Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)

    By Stu Hackel

    We’re updating this blog post throughout the weekend with major developments, so check back every so often.

    We wrote earlier this week that the time has come for a change in the way in which the league handles its labor relations, that it has been too confrontational and combative for too long and no good can come from that. What is — and isn’t — going on in these CBA negotiations demonstrates the bankruptcy of the NHL’s way of doing business with its players.

    UPDATE (Sat. 4:45 PM): A cautious, tentative optimism has replaced the angry mood that marked the talks heading into the weekend. It appears that as a result of discussions late Friday and today (Saturday), the league and players are starting to melt both their bargaining gap and their frosty relations. Various source have said that while the outstanding issues — including the salary cap for next season, the maximum length of individual contacts, the player pension and the term of the CBA itself –  have not been resolved, the sides are moving somewhat closer to each other.

    Whatever progress has been made — and that is still up in the air — a good deal of the credit has to go to Beckenbaugh, who has diligently kept at it to the point where negotiators have again been meeting face-to-face on Saturday afternoon at the NHLPA’s midtown Manhattan hotel. Beckenbaugh’s mediation is not the only factor, of course.

    Another significant impetus certainly has to be the NHLPA’s vote to re-institute the right of their executive committee to disclaim interest. That vote concludes at 6 PM and it is a certainty the membership will grant that right, which has given the players some leverage since the threat of dissolving the union could potentially lead to anti-trust litigation against the owners — and treble damages if a court found in the players’ favor. Whether or not the PA uses this weapon is an open question, and it it very much contingent on how much real progress has been made in the talks.

    A third reason for a different mood on Saturday is that both sides do want the season to go forward. The owners want to reopen for business (especially those who have paid huge guaranteed signing bonuses to players but have not had any income to offset them) and players want to play and stop missing paychecks. It has been said by the league that the deadline to get a deal done is the end of next week, although we’ve seen deadlines move before. During the lockout of ’94 it happened often.

    The caution comes in because we’ve seem progress before come to a screeching halt numerous times over the last few months. Will more lines be drawn in the sand? Does more brinksmanship await? That’s been the nature of these talks and no one should be surprised if it happens again. As The Sporting News Jesse Spector tweeted, “Are the NHL and NHLPA close to a deal? Absolutely. This was also true Wednesday. And last month.”

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  • Published On Jan 04, 2013


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