Have you ever wanted to write the commissioner of your favourite game and vent like there's no tomorrow? Well now you don't have to, I've taken the liberty of doing so!

Puckin' Around
c/o Sports Byline

November 2002

Mr. Gary Bettman
NHL Headquarters

Dear Mr. Bettman:

I have lost what little respect I ever had for you. You should be ashamed to call yourself commissioner. The NHL's gold and silver image has been tarnished yet again by your senseless antics and thoughtless remarks.

Why don't you wake up and smell the coffee?! Who died and made you king of the world, much less Canada? Better yet, how did you manage to keep your job in the first place? Personally, I think you've fallen asleep at the wheel one too many times.

Why am I so upset? I have been an absolute fanatic of our wonderful game since before I even learned how to breathe, and it absolutely kills me to see what is happening to our game. Before my very eyes, while you sit in an office somewhere collecting a pay check and making yourself look grand in front of a camera, our game is dying a slow painful death. The NHL is the laughing stock of sports. The players themselves are so confused they don't know whether they're coming or going. And don't get me started on the officials (although I must admit you've done real good in that department, real good!).

You had the audacity to set foot in Toronto on the eve of Hockey Hall of Fame ceremonies and announce to every hockey and sports fan around the world you and the NHL's 30 owners "are prepared for a long battle with the NHLPA if it means fixing some problems in the next Collective Bargaining Agreement." Essentially you confirmed what we knew all along, the current CBA stinks and should never have been ratified in the first place. Players are overpaid, and now small market teams are paying for it. Now you say that "we owe it to our fans to fix it, if there's any guarantee you want me to give fans, it's that we're going to fix it." Does this mean you're willing to forfeit part of your salary for the cause?

What took you so long to figure this out? At the time this CBA went into effect, we had already lost more than half of the NHL season. Was it a matter of putting hockey on the ice for the fans or was it more a matter of making sure you earned a salary? Would it really have mattered if we had lost the entire lockout season at the risk of preventing the situation we're currently in? You provided us with a temporary band-aid solution, one that will now require stitches to repair correctly.

Despite how strong the league has gotten, there are problems to be addressed so our fans in Edmonton, Calgary, Ottawa, Montreal and Vancouver don't have to worry about their franchises. Well guess what Einstein? We are worried, and we're afraid, we're very afraid! We fear that before all is said and done we may lose yet another franchise to the almighty dollar. Already we are seeing our most skilled players hightailing it to teams such as New Jersey, Colorado, Dallas and Detroit in the hopes of buying, I mean winning the Stanley Cup.

For the past four years all you've said to reporters was that our game continues to grow, attendance is up and we are very proud of our game. Yet your average fan can't attend this game anymore because it's too damn expensive to buy a ticket and owners across the board are wondering why!

Now you say you're prepared for a war. You've supposedly submitted a proposal with Bob Goodenow that was flat out rejected. Why the change of heart?

So what now Mr. Bettman? What do you intend to do about this temporary fix you call the collective bargaining agreement? Are you willing to take the fall if we lose out on hockey in the 2004/2005 season? Somebody has to, that's for sure.

I certainly commend you of late for trying, but quite frankly I think it's a matter of too little too late. You say there's no reason for the players not to trust you, and maybe you're right. I worry about the fans. Will they forgive and forget? One need look at what almost happened in baseball to understand the severity of the situation. Is this the real reason why nets are now mounted in every arena, so fans can't throw pucks back on the ice in disgust?

I noticed you like to hang out with Wayne Gretzky at the games. Perhaps if anyone can offer a solution to this mess, he can. Are you open minded enough to accept the fact you won't be able to go about this one alone?

I wish you all the luck in the world Mr. Bettman, you're going to need it. But be forewarned, I'm going to gather the biggest list of signatures you ever saw which is going to call for your resignation if you don't see the health and well-being of our game through to 2005 and beyond.

Oh and one more thing, I love the recent obstruction crackdown, don't change a thing! I do however have two concerns: 1) Are you going to continue this into the playoffs (truthfully)? 2) When is automatic icing going to be implemented? I am sure you'll cut down on the number of severe boarding incidents and prevent any possible fatalities by seeing to it that this gets into the rule book sooner rather than later.

Thank you for your time. I am confident you will do everything within your power to make us proud to be fans again, and if not, well then I guess it's time to move over and give somebody else a chance.

Sincerely Yours,

Adam "Puckin' Around" Hill - on behalf of hockey fans everywhere

Folks, I need your perspective on this and I need it now. Let's show 'em who the real bosses are, you and I, the ticket buying public!

Sorry to steal your words Mr. Barr, but I feel better now too!

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