Players haven’t been instructed to “demonize” Bettman, says NHLPA

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The NHLPA denies that players were instructed by union leadership to “demonize” NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and tells the CBC’s Elliotte Friedman that any suggestion otherwise is “absolutely false.”

The union’s denial came shortly after Friedman reported that “people across the league” believe NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr has waged a concerted PR war against Bettman.

And why would anyone ever think that?

Well, perhaps because players have been saying stuff like this:

“We’re ready to play. We want to play. But Gary’s pretty adamant about his third lockout of his tenure.” – Zach Parise

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

“Gary has forced the players’ hand into this situation and frankly, he’s [ticked] us off. I think at the start, that first offer they gave out, that was a big, big mistake on Gary’s part.” – Shawn Horcoff

Intentional or not, it’s Bettman’s name (often his first name, which seems to add an extra bit of sneer) the players keep referencing, not the names of the individual owners that employ Bettman and sign the players’ paychecks. (Wild defenseman Ryan Suter publicly called out Minnesota owner Craig Leipold, but then quickly recanted.)

So even if Fehr didn’t tell the players to target Bettman in their comments, it’s not hard to understand why those on the commissioner’s side may feel differently.