When it comes to questionable inflated hockey salaries, who is at the head of the class ? Give yourself a Hershey bar if you said Gary Bettman.
He is in his 20th year as Commissioner of the NHL, and he and the owners of the league’s 30 teams are getting ready to lock players out of the rinks for the third time in 20 years. Eight years ago the lockout scrubbed an entire season. Bettman insisted it was necessary to get costs under control.
Did I miss a meeting or two? Player salaries have continued to rise into the stratosphere, the cost of tickets requires a second mortgage in many cities, and more than half the owners say they’re losing money.
And the commissioner ? He seems to have done quite OK. His basic salary is well over seven million dollars a year. That’s more than double what it was eight years ago when the players got nothing. Not bad for a man who has never stopped a shot from the point, or even taken a hip check.
His so-called Southern Strategy which moved teams to non-traditional hockey markets has been largely a failure. The Phoenix Coyotes, who used to be the Winnipeg Jets, have been an expensive welfare case for years in the Arizona desert.
The Atlanta Thrashers are now the reborn Jets, thanks more to Mark Chipman and his partners than Gary Bettman.
Now those Winnipeg fans who committed major cash to secure their tickets for five years, are facing the prospect of a shutout after only one season. The move to another lockout appears to be deliberate and premeditated, and the impact will be huge, especially in the Canadian markets.
Most North Americans who work for a living keep their jobs by working hard and being productive. Sometimes it’s not enough as the Global economy spits people out.
How and why does Gary Bettman keep his job ?
We’re not sure.
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I am not what you would call a world traveler, even in my own region of Canada. I have lived most of my life in two southern cities, Winnipeg and Regina. But this month I pushed the envelope a little with a rare visit to the near north.
Flin Flon is a mining community which straddles the Manitoba – Saskatchewan boundary, just into the northern half of both provinces. It’s firmly located in the Pre-Cambrian shield, and the scenery is rugged and breathtaking.
It reminded very much of northwest Ontario where my grandfather first built a cottage in the late 1920’s. That’s about the same time that the Whitneys of New York first began mining for copper and zinc and other metals buried in those rocks.
The name Flin Flon comes from Josiah Flintabbatey Flonatin, the hero of a long forgotten fantasy novel. A giant statue of Flinty, designed by cartoonist Al Capp, celebrates that colourful history.
Enormous trout and other fish are still regularly pulled from the waters of Lake Athapapaskow in Baker’s Narrows Provincial Park.
More than 5,000 people live in Flin Flon, and some of them live in two provinces all the time. The boundary is a crooked line that wanders through the western part of town, and some folks literally sleep in Manitoba, and get up to eat breakfast in Saskatchewan, or vice versa.
It’s a wondrous world that most of us southerners will never see because it takes an eight hour drive, or an expensive plane ride to get there. That’s what the locals are faced with when they need anything major in the way of health care.
It costs a lot more to fill your gas tank and put fresh fruit and veggies on the table. Summers are fabulous, especially when it’s warm and sunny.
Winter is a different story indeed. Maybe I’ll check that out after I get my knees fixed.
Roger Currie is a writer, blogger and broadcaster.
He lives in Winnipeg, but this week he’s returning to Regina to watch the 2 and 6 Blue Bombers tangle with the 3 and 5 Roughriders.
They used to call it the Labour Day Classic
He can be reached at .. firstname.lastname@example.org