Yesterday when asked about the possible damage a lockout might inflict upon the NHL, the commissioner Gary Bettman infuriated fans with his assumption that they would return to hockey like ignorant dimwits following another NHL lockout.

We recovered last time because we have the world’s greatest fans.

Fans and media alike were astonished by his comment, which in reality amounts to a slap in the face. I suspect Bettman felt the comment was a compliment, however his statement shows exactly how out of touch, and how removed he is from the fans today. With social media and the immediate transfer of information and dialogues, it is easier now than ever before for fans to learn far more about the NHL-NHL Players’ Association CBA negotiations.

Bettman has now presided over two NHL lockouts during his tenure: in the 1994-95 season the lockout lasted 104 days, and in the 2004-05 season, the entire season was shut down. And now the 2012-13 season is looking in dire jeopardy of, at the very least, a partial lockout.

Let me see if I have this right. This summer one NHL team gave an offer sheet to another team’s player – a 14-year front-loaded contract that amounts to a total of $110,000,000 dollars. That offer sheet forced the player’s team to match that offer in order to keep their franchise’s most valuable player.  Then, Bettman, as NHL commissioner, announced as part of the NHL CBA negotiatons with the NHLPA that it was absolutely necessary to cut players’ salaries (i.e. their share of the hockey revenues) in order to save NHL hockey. And, in addition to other proposals, the NHL were also seeking to limit the length of a player’s contract to 5-years.  Is there any dialogue between Bettman and his owners? There is something seriously wrong with this picture. It seems to me the NHL’s problems lie with the owners, at the top of the food chain, not with the players.

Stop the posturing, the ridiculous proposals and get down to serious business. Strike at the heart of what’s wrong in the NHL. Simply repeating the same mistakes lockout to lockout is not a solution. Based on what I am reading by various hockey media, the players are currently receiving about a 50/50% split of overall revenue, and that is what fans think is a fair sharing between the two entities. Just to clarify: it is the hockey players we come to watch at the games, not the owners. Not Gary Bettman.

It is now time for fans to give the NHL some tough love. Do what’s best for them and the sport. It is time for fans to speak up and demonstrate who actually keeps this sport alive. In case you didn’t know, it is the fans. And yes, they will return to the game they love, but there is no reason they cannot boycott a game or two throughout the league to make a statement. Show the NHL and Gary Bettman that they are fed up with the lockouts. The threats. The BS.

I am a serious fan of hockey and until last season it was all NHL hockey for me. Then, in the late spring of 2011, I discovered hockey in the minor leagues. And to be truthful, I can live with that for a while. For an entire season if necessary. I will not purchase any NHL tickets until this matter is resolved, and I will most likely not buy any NHL tickets this season even in the event of a partial lockout. It is a minor statement, but it is a statement to the NHL and Gary Bettman.

Do not take us for granted. Never assume.

Howard Beale (Peter Finch) delivering his “mad as hell” speech in the movie Network (1976).

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