Reporting Tim Kephart
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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Florida Panthers fans received a lump of coal in their stocking from the National Hockey League this year thanks to the seemingly never-ending lockout. Monday marked the 100th day of the current lockout and negotiations aren’t supposed to resume until later this week.
So far, the NHL, led by Commissioner Gary Bettman, has canceled a total of 626 regular-season games through mid-January. The NHL has also lost the Winter Classic, which was supposed to be played at Michigan Stadium this year. Bettman and his fellow owners have also canceled All-Star weekend.
Things are not looking good for a settlement of the lockout any time soon. The players gave the NHL Players Association the power to file a disclaimer of interest and dissolve the union at any time. If the players do that, they would then file an antitrust suit against the owners.
If a case ever went to trial and the players won a decision, the owners could be on the hook for up to $3 billion in damages. The NFL Players Association tried a similar tactic during the NFL lockout, but did not receive favorable decisions by federal courts.
Bettman and his deputy commissioner Bill Daly have said that if a disclaimer of interest is filed, the season is likely lost period.
In some ways, the current lockout is dripping with irony. The last time the NHL went into a lockout that eventually wiped out a season, Bettman and the owners were trying to impose stiff new rules on the players and eventually succeeded for the most part.
But now, the owners want to impose even tougher contract terms on the players because they said the last deal they killed a season for wasn’t good enough. So, Bettman may be willing to spike a second season because the deal he got after spiking a season in the past wasn’t good enough.
It calls into question Bettman’s ability to lead the NHL; especially given the fact the league produced record revenue last season of about $3.3 billion.
Bettman is widely considered by sports pundits to be the worst commissioner in professional sports due to his inability to keep a product on the ice. However, he answers only to the owners and if they are willing to lose another season to get their way; then Bettman will happily kill the current season.
The NHL said previously that a deal has to be in place by mid-January to avoid a cancellation of the season. For the league that was once part of the Big Four of pro sports leagues in the U.S., another canceled season could be crippling to any growth of the sport in this country.