FanPost

Did Gary Bettman have it planned this way all along?

Pardon my cynicism, but this hockey hissy-fit seems hokey. Orchestrated, if you will. By the owners.

Think about it.

Prior to this week, the two schoolyard bullies in the National Hockey League melodrama, Gary Bettman and Donald Fehr, had done little more than say "na na na na na" to one another. They had accomplished squat since commissioner Bettman padlocked the players out of the job site and took the 2012-13 season hostage on Sept. 15.

They weren't negotiating. They were playing a game of chicken...a game of chicken with a considerable amount of money, an 82-game schedule, some careers (See: Selanne, Teemu) and many off-ice jobs at stake.

Didn't matter.

Bettman had to save the NHL's free-spending billionaire owners from themselves. At all costs. Fehr, meanwhile, was just as pigheaded. As grand poobah of the players collective, a cold front would move into hell before he'd see his millionaire constituents settle for a penny less than what they had earned last year.

Stalemate.

So, exit Bettman and Fehr.

Now we have a group of players numbering as many as 18 sitting across the negotiating table with six owners, one of whom is Winnipeg Jets' bankroll Mark Chipman.

Suddenly, there is a to-and-fro. A give-and-take. Can it be that a new Collective Bargaining Agreement is at hand? And all it took was for Bettman and Fehr to take a timeout?

Well, I ask you this: Do you see Bettman ceding power to anyone?

Bettman is not a stupid man. Stubborn yes. Stupid no.

Oh, sure, plopping a franchise in the Arizona desert made about as much sense as an outdoor swimming pool in the Arctic. It was dumb. The thing is, the NHL's little Napolean has somehow hood-winked Greg Jamison and his cartel of backers to pay $170 million for a franchise that has never turned so much as a penny of profit.

That's why I'm convinced the NHL-NHLPA labor saga is playing out exactly as Bettman had planned. If anyone thinks otherwise, I've got some oceanfront property in Arizona to sell. (You don't suppose Jamison could be suckered into buying it, too, do you?)

I'm not saying that Bettman has played Fehr for the fool, because the players' rep is a bright guy. I am, however, submitting that there wouldn't have been a thawing of relations this week if Bettman didn't want a warm spell to move in.

We don't like Bettman in Canada. We tend to blame him for everything from Winnipeg winters to Don Cherry's clothing to Celine Dion albums.

Basically, he became the boogyman when he allowed the Quebec Nordiques and Winnipeg Jets to escape to Denver and Phoenix, respectively, in the 1990s. All available evidence indicates there was nothing he could have done to prevent those defections, because the NHL wasn't into the business of buying money-losing franchises back then.

But he's branded anti-Canadian to this day just the same.

But if you really want to blame him for something, it's this lockout.

Bettman doesn't do anything by accident. The players have been locked out this long for one reason: He wanted it that way.

And they'll drop the puck again when he's good and ready.

I'm just saying.

If this FanPost is written by someone other than one of the blog's editors, the opinions expressed in it do not necessarily reflect those of this blog or SB Nation.

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