Gary Bettman

Bettman: “We’re at a loss to explain what happened” (updated with video)


NHL commissioner Gary Bettman addressed the media Thursday night, sounding frustrated at some points and outright furious at others.

He summed up this week of the lockout — and basically this entire process — when he described what’s happened as “an emotional roller coaster.”

Bettman said that the owners had a sense of optimism on Tuesday. However, that “almost inexplicably disappeared” on Wednesday.

Part of the problem, from the owners’ perspective, is that they put an additional $100 million on the table and the union’s response was “shockingly silent.” That left the owners “beside themselves.”

Bettman said that the NHL was willing to make certain concessions if the union moved towards the owners in three areas: five-year player contract limits, a “longer the better” CBA, and compliance issues related to transitioning to a new agreement (e.g. buyouts, cap on escrow).

NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said that contract lengths in particular are “the hill we’ll die on.”

When the union came back with a counter proposal, rather than a yes or no response to the league’s key demands, the NHL promptly rejected the offer.

On top of that, the NHL has pulled the concessions that they made over the past week off the table. That includes the Make Whole proposal in its entirety.

Bettman accused NHLPA excecutive director Donald Fehr of “spinning us all into an emotional frenzy” by claiming that the two sides are closer than the league feels they are.

The commissioner is “disappointed beyond belief that we are where we are tonight.” (On that point, there aren’t likely to be many dissenting opinions.)

Now the question is how much time is left before the 2012-13 campaign is lost entirely. Bettman suggested that a season must be at least 48 games for it to be viable.

“We are where we are, as horrible as it is,” Bettman said.


Not good enough: NHL rejects latest NHLPA offer

After years of hype, McDavid to play first NHL game

Connor McDavid
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The hype surrounding Connor McDavid couldn’t be much greater, but finally expectations will start to give way to results.

The NHL career that’s been talked about for years will begin tonight when his Edmonton Oilers face St. Louis.

“It’s something that you dream of for so long,” McDavid told “The draft is one thing, but to finally be in this situation is another, so I’m really excited. It’s been a long road; it’s been a lot of hard work. I think a lot of guys’ stories are different in how they get here, but the one common theme is hard work and my story is not any different that way.”

McDavid has transformed the Oilers with his mere presence. Its breathed fresh optimism into a city that have watched this team struggle in its efforts to dig out of the NHL basement. One also has to wonder if Peter Chiarelli would be the team’s new general manager and Todd McLellan its new head coach if Edmonton hadn’t won the draft lottery.

But where will he lead Edmonton? Will he be just the sixth 70-point rookie of the salary cap era? Will he struggle out of the gate, putting the hype into question? Perhaps he’ll draw comparisons to Steven Stamkos, who had a modest rookie campaign by the standards of a highly regarded top pick, but has nevertheless gone on to become a superstar.

That would surprise Stamkos as the Lightning captain feels McDavid is better than he is currently. Just further proof that those lofty expectations are coming from all sides.

“You don’t want to put too much weight on his shoulders; he’s an 18-year-old kid,” Oilers general manager Peter Chiarelli said. “I don’t care how good he is or how good he’ll be, it’s a lot to shoulder if you’re supposed to be the guy and you’re the only guy. Fortunately we have a lot of high-pedigree players that are high picks who have gone through similar situations that he’s going through.”

Edmonton certainly has no shortage of first overall picks, but none as highly regarded as McDavid. But then, few ever are.

Related: There’s ‘a real positive vibe’ in Buffalo, where Eichel will make NHL debut tonight

There’s ‘a real positive vibe’ in Buffalo, where Eichel will make NHL debut tonight

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Jack Eichel didn’t disappoint in the preseason, finishing with six points in four games, including two shorthanded goals.

Tonight in Buffalo, his NHL career will start for real when the Sabres host the Ottawa Senators in regular-season action.

“It’s something I’ve dreamed of my whole life, stepping foot on that ice and making the NHL,” Eichel said, per “It’s kind of been a whirlwind, but you’re finally playing hockey for a living and everything you’ve done your whole life is to get to this point. It’s pretty special.”

The 18-year-old’s debut was front-page news this morning in Buffalo, where the Sabres have been among the NHL’s worst teams since last making the playoffs in 2010-11.

Eichel front page

Granted, even with the additions of Eichel, Ryan O'Reilly, Evander Kane, Robin Lehner and Cody Franson, expectations for 2015-16 remain modest for the new-look Sabres. Certainly, a spot in the playoffs would count as a surprise.

But for the fans of a team that’s barely possessed the puck the past couple of years, it’s night and day.

“People are excited,” GM Tim Murray said earlier this week. “It’s great. They think we’ve improved, and there’s a real positive vibe, I believe.

“That’s what I said to our coaches, ‘I want everybody to be positive. I’m the only guy in the organization allowed to be negative.’ That’s the way I wanted it. If I’m the most negative guy in the city about the team, that’s pretty good.”