An Open Letter to Gary Bettman
Mr. Bettman, you won't know me by name but I am a devout fan of the league you oversee. For as long as I can remember I've been attending NHL games, watching NHL games, purchasing NHL memorabilia and spreading my love for the glorious sport of hockey. It is because of people like me that you have your current job as commissioner of the National Hockey League.
Today you cancelled the 2004-2005 NHL hockey season. As a result, I will be deprived of one of my passions. I won't be celebrating a Maple Leaf goal, feeling that tingle the morning of a Maple Leaf playoff game and exchanging high fives with James and my brothers following a big win. For the first time in a decade we won't be drafting a playoff pool, seeing an always exciting game seven or discussing potential trades at the deadline. For only the second time in the history of the Stanley Cup and for the first time since 1919 that precious mug we dream about as children will go unawarded. We are left with nothing.
The NHL's Players' Association, realizing the season would be lost, agreed to a salary cap. From day one of this lock out we heard you say this was necessary from your standpoint and we heard Mr. Goodenow say this would never happen. It happened, a major hurdle was overcome and you were offered a $49-million salary cap. When your final offer of a $42.5-million US salary cap was refused, you cancelled the season.
History would have seen you as the victor of these negotiations. Salaries would have been immediately rolled back substantially and the heavy spending franchises like my Maple Leafs would have been forced to reduce their payroll in order to fit under the cap you so desperately wanted. You had won but this wasn't enough for you. You went for broke, threw salt in your opponents wounds and did something that has never been done in any professional league at any time. This will go down in history as the first complete season lost and I blame you. You could have taken your tidy victory and done what was best for the sport, for the league and, most importantly, for the fans.
Mr. Bettman, it's no secret you lack a passion for this sport and the history of this great game. One of your first acts as commissioner was to change the historic names of our conferences and divisions to generic regional names. Norris, Smythe, Campbell, these names meant nothing to you but they were named for men who built this game. You discarded them and today you've discarded everything the Stanley Cup means to this nation.
A commissioner should protect the well being of the league. Instead, you've alienated the long standing fans of this game and ensured new fans find another source of entertainment. I should be spending my Saturday nights passing on my love of this game to my three year old son. Once a child falls in love with a sport, he or she will comprise your fan base for several decades to come. Unfortunately, I don't believe you understand this concept. Many are realizing, as Ken Dryden recently stated, that what they thought was passion was actually habit. Life goes on without hockey and this void will be filled. Don't be so naive as to believe all fans will return. The pain you've inflicted will not heal quickly.
Today I am sad, but not surprised. I didn't expect you to do the right thing. I never expected you to give an inch to save a season and permit Stanley's annual tradition to continue. You're the wrong person to fulfill your duties and I won't be satisfied until you're removed. Step aside and allow someone who actually loves hockey and the rich history of the NHL to act as commissioner.
You've done quite enough already.
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