NHL agent believes the pressure is all on Gary Bettman and the league

The NHL targeted start date of January 1 hangs in the balance this week. If they hope to get the season underway both Gary Bettman and the NHLPA must strike a deal soon.

Pressure all on Gary Bettman

“The players have the leverage because at the end of the day, Gary Bettman has to preserve the integrity of the game and they have to play a season — whatever it looks like,” an NHL agent told The Province’s Ben Kuzma. “Because if they don’t, it’s really going to damage the brand.”

nhl season start
Gary Bettman (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File)

Bettman already had his hands full with trying to start a new season during a pandemic. Even with a vaccine on the horizon, fans in the stands aren’t a given on day one. In some cases, local government may not allow anyone in regardless of what other states or provinces are doing.

The NHL is a ticket based league and relies heavily on fans to survive. That’s why the NHL and its owners are asking Bettman to get the players to renegotiate the CBA just signed four months ago.

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Players angry and against any changes to escrow

The league is asking for more deferrals of salary for next season. If it was just that, it wouldn’t be an issue since they will get that money back at some point. Of course, if an owner declares bankruptcy that player is out of luck. Escrow is the major sticking point and the players are pretty adamant they don’t want to give up any more in that area.

“The owners need to start acting like owners. Stop using the CBA or the MOU [Memorandum of Understanding] as a promissory note because they now want to rewrite terms of the note,” the agent explained. “They assume the business risk by owning teams. Part of the rift is what happens when you run a business, you have to deal with it and act like an owner.”

So this week the two sides will reconvene as a counter-proposal by the players is expected. Who will blink first is the question. Now we know the pressure really is on Bettman.