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An open letter to Mark Chipman and True North Sports and Entertainment

It's time for the moderate NHL owners to stand up and end the NHL lockout.

Bruce Bennett

Dear Mr. Chipman,

I'm sure you and business partner David Thomson didn't have this in mind amid your May 2011 purchase of the Atlanta Thrashers; a relocation which saw the team trade in their Georgian zip code for a Manitoban postal code. Yet here we are, a year and a half removed, midway through our third month of hockey depravity, without even a remote chance that the NHL lockout will be settled before the calendar slips into 2013, if at all.

A man of your financial perspicacity must have had an inkling that a work stoppage was possible heading into the summer. There must have been a shred of trepidation, given the haste shown by the NHL in sweeping these lame-duck Thrashers under the rug and eradicating the Atlanta Spirit group -- said to be hemorrhaging money -- from the league's boardroom with a few swift penstrokes.

But even so, surely no one at your headquarters expected to be eighty days deep into the abyss while your depressed fanbase teeters on the brink of stability at the behest of Gary Bettman and his adversary Donald Fehr. It's becoming painfully apparent given recent talks that there are two factions of players and owners whom have formed over the course of the past three depressingly nebulous months: those that want to get a deal done and those who want to get the best deal done. Unfortunately, it has been the latter camp steering this lockout ship to the brink of calamitous woe.

Now, a betting man would say that an ownership group such as TNSE along with others set in profitable markets would be on their hands and knees pleading with hardliners to end this purgatory in which we all find ourselves. In fact, there is stipulation that this happened on at least one occasion, resulting in a less than stellar resolution. The tact at hand from the owners running your show is obvious: extend the lockout until the players blink whilst attempting to shrug off any of the irreparable consequences that may plague them once the dust settles on this ugly affair. Well, now it's time to throw a wrench in their gears.

While you and Mr. Thomson may be the new kids on the block, I fail to see what's so disingenuous with the ideology that you and a large contingent of NHL owners are seeking finality in this matter, even if it requires compromise. Fans would like to think that owners such as yourself would want to get back to work so badly that they would speak up to the lunacy that has acrimoniously subdued and divided your boardroom.

But instead, with an eye roll, a curt head shake and the refutation of any animous rifts between owners, you, along with the mutiny of disgruntled NHL owners continue to let the big-wigs have their way.

And why wouldn't you? You're in a position where, regardless if there is a season or not, you will be absolved of any blame as fans continue to laud the efforts you put forth in returning the NHL to the heart of the prairies. After all, it's Gary Bettman, Jeremy Jacobs and a small gaggle of money-hungry owners who are holding us all hostage. They will be the ones to shoulder all the blame when the league officially dims its lights for the full calendar season.

And it's not that upset fans such as myself don't understand your silence on the matter. The majority of league owners -- including the TNSE group -- have been handpicked for the job by your current commissioner and with that comes an expectation that you "fall in line" with those who granted you the opportunity to attend the prom. Not to mention the fact that you don't have a cool million dollars readily lying between the mattresses to pay the fine they'll levy against you for speaking publicly. However, if a large number of owners continue to allow themselves to be bullied by the old boys' club behind the scenes, well, fans can kiss the season goodbye.

Your players call you a moderate owner, of which the NHL has plenty. And obviously ending a lockout is an undertaking that no one owner can accomplish alone. But it's time for moderates the likes of Ilitch, Tanenbaum, Burkle, Pegula, Molson, Aquilini and you, Mr. Chipman (among many more), to band together in forming the movement that ends this stalemate once and for all.

With soon-to-be imposed drop dead dates rapidly approaching, it's time to put pressure on your colleagues, despite any lingering dissidence, because dammit, your investment can't afford to go dark for an entire year. Forget about money the players will never get back, your empty arena on game night after game night is money that you'll never get back either.

We can't afford to waste any more time on the matter, lest we be inclined to repeat the darkest hours of our history yet again.

Hopefully, today’s owner/player meeting is the first step towards re-opening the doors of the MTS Centre for fans who desperately want to return to celebrating the great sport of hockey.


An annoyed fan