The timing couldn’t be much worse, seeing as Gary Bettman already has a big shit sandwich on his plate with the NHL lockout, but I’m wondering, as others are, if he might take time away from his CBA duties to play a hand in stalled talks between the Edmonton Oilers and city council over a new downtown arena.
After all, while The Count has his hands full frustrating Donald Fehr and the NHLPA at every turn getting the NHL back on track, anybody who can reject three counter-proposals in less than 20 minutes, as Bettman did Thursday, might be able to make the time to jump a jet and lock himself in a room with Stephen Mandel and Daryl Katz and broker a deal for a new downtown rink, which is something Katz has already hinted might be worth a try.
I’m wondering if Bettman might be able to make sense of the real numbers members of council and the Katz Group can’t seem to agree on as quickly as he shot down Fehr and the NHLPA – I have an image of Bettman skimming over pages and pages of documents with his fingertip like in one of those old speed-reading commercials. Really, a $450-million project is small potatoes compared to the $3-billion pie he’s engaged in cutting up with Fehr.
It’s probably a goofy idea, I know (and one, some will say, that must be a bad idea if Katz is willing to try it). I might be grasping at straws by even thinking Bettman might be able to coax some movement into the arena stalemate, but if anybody else has a better idea, I’d be happy to hear it.
I can’t imagine he could do anything to worsen the lines of communication.
A DEEP BREATH AND THEN . . .
"I think everyone needs to take a deep breath,” Bettman told reporters Thursday when asked about the stalled arena negotiations here. "The Oilers need a new arena, the City of Edmonton needs a new arena.
"And I’m hopeful that despite the breakdown in negotiations, reason will prevail and we’ll get it to the right place."
Fans around the NHL, you can bet, are hoping the same thing as it pertains to "reason" and the "right place" in CBA negotiations. Fans here, as I do, might be wondering if Bettman will find the time to inject some of that here with Katz and council – if he’s not laid up resting his arm after giving Fehr and the PA three rapid-fire pies in the face.
Philosophically, we know Bettman wants the Oilers in Edmonton. He fought to keep the team in town in the throes of the transition from Peter Pocklington to the EIG. With both sides of this impasse in full agreement (they are, aren’t they?) this city needs a new rink as a catalyst to revitalize the downtown, what possible reason could Mandel and council have NOT to invite Bettman to join the discussion?
Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.