Don Cherry: I’ve never seen Bettman that livid

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For a brief moment on Thursday, when NHLPA executive Donald Fehr was talking to the media, it sounded like this lockout might actually be in its final days. Then the mood went sour quickly and by the time NHL commissioner Gary Bettman started speaking, his description of “an emotional roller coaster” seemed like an understatement.

As Bettman outlined the owner’s position Thursday night, he seemed frustrated and furious over the events of the last few days. Unprecedentedly so by Bettman’s standards, according to Don Cherry.

“I have known Gary Bettman since he was named commissioner,” Cherry said. “I have never seen him so livid as he was tonight at the press conference. He was almost shaking. That was no act.”

The owners offered the players an additional $100 million in the hope that the players would concede to the NHL’s demands in three key 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).

Rather than give the owners the yes or no answer they were looking for, the union attempted to make a counter-offer and the negotiations collapsed.

“There were owners who I’ll call doves who were against the hawks,” Cherry said. “The hawks said okay we’ll do it your way and the doves put an extra 100 million on the table and when the association said okay but… The doves turned into hawks themselves.

“I believe the hardliners said to the doves okay we did it your way and the association thinks we are weak.. Now we’ll do it our way.

“Looks like I will see a lot more of Marlies, Junior and Minor Midget games this year.”

Four of the six owners who came to New York City for this week’s talks issued statements following the negotiations collapse on Thursday.

“I am very disappointed and disillusioned,” Maple Leafs owner Larry Tanenbaum said. “Had I not experienced this process myself, I might not have believed it.”

It remains to be seen what the next move will be from either side, although presumably there will be another round of canceled games announced at some point.