Columnist: Players fighting Bettman more than anything

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Wayne Gretzky might still be optimistic that the NHL season can be saved, but Denver Post columnist Adrian Dater is almost certain it won’t be.

Why so negative?

Dater argues that, for the players, this lockout is about more than money. This time, it’s personal. And the person it’s about is NHL commissioner Gary Bettman.

This is a sad story with no winners, but the tagline of the story is this: the players in the NHL are sick and tired of Gary Bettman, and they will sacrifice their greater financial good to drive this man out of their game. Or, if not drive him out of the game, at least be able to say to themselves “That bleeping bleep didn’t push us around this time.”

That’s how much they hate him right now.

It really has come to this awful juncture, an irreconcilable difference in the minds of the players that they must defeat Bettman at all costs. I have spent the last couple months or so in regular contact with a wide number of players, and this is what it has come down to – sadly.

Furthering Dater’s point, the players haven’t exactly hidden their disdain for the commissioner.

“Gary’s pretty adamant about his third lockout of his tenure,” Zach Parise said in August.

“We’ve all heard that Gary thinks the fans don’t matter,” said Danny Briere.

Doesn’t get much more personal than first names.

The last lockout was personal, too.

“Gary Bettman and (former NHLPA head) Bob Goodenow hated each other,” veteran agent Steve Bartlett told the Edmonton Journal recently.

And while there may not be the same level of animosity between Bettman and current union head Donald Fehr – something Bartlett saw as reason for optimism this time – you have to wonder if the players would be more willing to compromise if the commissioner wasn’t the same guy as the last time.

Related: Bettman should consider stepping away from talks