Gary Bettman discusses realignment, labor talks

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NHL commissioner Gary Bettman made a visit to Anaheim today and the media gathered to discuss a variety of league-wide and local issues. The most interesting tidbits – at least regarding what Bettman would call “new news” – revolve around dealings with the NHLPA.

PHT’s own Matt Reitz was on hand to gather Bettman’s comments, including this bit on realignment:

“The most significant thing I can say about that is the governors were overwhelming in support of the plan,” Bettman said. “It’s something that we, as a league, thought was the right thing to do for our fans, for the team, for the game. But we made the decision based on the position that the union was taking to try not to be confrontational right now. Ultimately, our goal will be to be to implement the will of the board [of governors].”

For the most part, Bettman didn’t provide a whole lot of information about the negotiation process regarding the next Collective Bargaining Agreement. He did share an interesting little nugget about when the discussions could begin, though:

“Well, Don Fehr has repeatedly said that he wouldn’t be ready until after the All-Star [weekend],” Bettman said. “My guess is that at some point in the next few weeks, we’ll probably sit down—assuming the union is comfortable doing that. There’s a pretty steep learning curve in terms of the business from the union’s standpoint, what the players are focused on, and we’ve been respectful of that process. So whenever they’re ready, we’re ready. We’ve been ready.”

Speaking of readiness, Bettman spoke about what is likely the greatest fear of hockey people: another protracted work stoppage. When asked if the league “learned a lesson” after the lockout, Bettman’s response was logical but not necessarily soothing:

“I’m not sure it’s about learning lessons, because the lesson that everybody knows – and it’s not one you have to learn – is that you want to not have work stoppages,” Bettman said. “They’re not fun. They’re counter-productive. But if, if you’re in a situation as we were where there were fundamental problems that had to be addressed, you have to address the problems. Because you can’t live with a dysfunctional system.”

It’s not crazy to view that quote as a bit cryptic, especially if he views the current system as dysfunctional.

It’s tough to imagine the league taking that stand, but that doesn’t mean that a work stoppage is out of the question – especially with the aforementioned realignment talk in mind.

If you want to hear more from Bettman’s meeting with the press (expect more on Thursday morning), The OC Register’s Eric Stephens captured some of his full comments in the video below.