Another part of Gary Bettman’s Stanley Cup press conference today that has grabbed a bit of attention is the escalating feud between Bettman and the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF).
In case you didn’t know, IIHF President Rene Fasel was a bit upset that players like Sidney Crosby, Tomas Holmstrom and Henrik Zetterberg among others decided to go home after their teams were eliminated from the NHL Playoffs instead of booking it to Germany for the World Championships. Fasel accused those players of turning their back on their country and essentially turning their back on the system that helped make them what they are. Fasel, realizing that he couldn’t see the forest for the trees ended up apologizing to Pat Brisson, Crosby’s agent, for lashing out.
Gary Bettman today showed that he’s not a guy that takes criticism of any kind of his players and product lightly.
Bettman responded with a veiled threat Friday during his annual state of the league address prior to Game 1 of the Stanley Cup final, suggesting that he’d like to speak with the NHL Players’ Association about future involvement in the tournament.
“At some point when we’re engaged on really substantive issues with the players’ association I am certain that will be on the list of things we talk about,” said Bettman.
The commissioner referred to the issue as one of his “hotspots” and got quite animated while discussing it. He feels it’s the latest in a pattern of disrespectful behaviour by the IIHF.
“I’m not happy with the way the IIHF somehow feels it has an entitlement to these great athletes who risk their careers and put themselves out of their own time without anything but love of country,” said Bettman.
Seems like a bold statement from the commissioner doesn’t it? Don’t forget, however, that Bettman is going to have this issue in particular to dangle in front of the NHLPA come Collective Bargaining Agreement time in a couple years. Russian players are adamant that they will play in the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia and many players have already stated they’re going to go regardless of what happens with the CBA.
For every seeming good deed, there’s something up the commissioner’s sleeve and his standing up for the players in this case is just grandstanding come bargaining time. For what it’s worth, Fasel was wildly out of line to criticize the players he did given that more than a few of them also played in the Olympics in Vancouver, another IIHF event and asking them to do double duty after an 82 game season and playoffs is being a bit demanding.