As the talks are stalling and the threat of a lockout become more and more of a reality, fans are left wondering where they stand in the big picture, keeping some hope that somewhere, someone is working for them behind the scene in this battle between millionaires and billionaires.
We, as fans, understand that the NHL is a business and while we may not be “in the know” when it comes to the details of what’s being discussed behind closed doors amongst Governors and during the CBA negotiations, we understand that labour talks are not easy. We’ve read reports that some teams can’t keep up with the cap floor and that some are pretty much guaranteed to lose money before the puck is dropped to start the season and that, in spite of a hard salary cap and some sort of revenue sharing. We, fans, want the NHL to be healthy and we want our favourite sport to thrive.
Fans also understand that the players are loved and that they are the reason why we like the game. Players are the ones being idolized, they are the ones signing autographs, attending different events and giving their time to different charity events and making public appearances. They play a huge role in our love for the game. But fans understand that for that to happen, owners need to have profitable franchises.
While there is no doubt that the cancellation of the 2004-2005 season was hard on the owners and the players, fans survived with most thinking that this was necessary to allow the NHL to right the ship, to fix its internal problems. They did, directly or indirectly, support and understood that it was a sacrifice which, hopefully, was going to make things better for the future of this league, for the good of the game we love.
You, Mr. Molson, have done an amazing job since taking over as the owner of the Montreal Canadiens. You recognized that previous management was destroying your product. You hired a trusted and knowledgeable friend and hockey man in Serge Savard to help guide you in your hockey decisions and from there, you hired a well-respected, young up and coming executive at the position of General Manager in Marc Bergevin. You understand marketing and the importance of public relations, promotion of your product and mostly, you know your market in Montreal, in Quebec and across Canada. You are putting money and great efforts into bringing back pride, just like it was back in the days of Hartland Molson and the Molson family during your team’s glory days. You, Mr. Molson, are doing your part to promote your product, to keep and grow your fan base.
But as a fan, I must ask you how you feel when you see NHL commissioner Gary Bettman conduct business the way he does? Does he have blind support from the NHL owners, carte blanche to do or say what he wants, or does he follow strict orders and guidelines put forth by his employers, who by the way pay him amazingly well, perhaps too well?
Owners who work this hard at building their franchise the way you do must cringe at some of the comments made by your representative. “Players make too much money”, was Bettman saying just the other day. Does he think fans are that stupid? Who, Mr. Bettman, is giving the players those contracts? Who put a gun to Craig Leipold’s head to give Ryan Suter and Zach Parise the money that he gave them? Yes we, fans, understand that there is peer pressure to be competitive and that in some markets, it is difficult to draw big name UFAs. But please, don’t let Gary Bettman tell us that the players are making too much money when owners agree to such contracts!
And now, fans are reading that Gary Bettman and the owners are not concerned about the effects of another lockout, a third one under Bettman? “We recovered well last time because we have the world’s greatest fans”, Bettman said. You know Mr. Molson, this type of game being played, this attitude is a very risky one. Taking the fans for granted and thinking that they’re idiots, sheep that will follow no matter what because they have in the past is very, very dangerous.
The first Habs’ captain to lift the Stanley Cup after my birth was Jean Beliveau so I’ve seen the good and the bad of the NHL. I can tell you that now, I’m seeing the ugly and while it may be a good old classic movie, it is not one that this fan wants to see in the NHL. To think that you and some other owners are putting so much effort into getting your ship back on track while the commissioner is raising a storm has to hurt you as I do strongly believe that you are a man of pride and honour, an owner with integrity. If you weren’t, you wouldn’t have done what you’ve done this summer with your team, you would have been happy to pocket the money.
It is my opinion that your commissioner is ruining this game with his gimmick rules to cater fair-weather fans in the US, perhaps following orders from his good friends Jeremy Jacobs and Ed Snider. This fan is growing more and more frustrated and while I never thought in a million year that I would feel this way, I am seriously thinking that perhaps, it’s time for me to find another passion.
There better not be a lockout Mr. Molson or if there is, it better not drag. I have full faith that if anyone can do something about it by talking some sense to the owners, it is you. I have faith in Geoff Molson. I can’t say the same about the person representing him and the other owners.
Kind regards and Go Habs Go!