Gary Bettman is belittled, bedraggled and beleaguered, and, at the moment, the commissioner of nothing.
During his 12-year lordship of the NHL, four franchises have declared bankruptcy, two Canadian teams relocated to U.S. cities, the 1994-95 season was reduced to 48 games, he recently signed a TV deal with NBC that does not guarantee the league any revenue and, now, his crowning achievement -- perhaps an entire season canceled!
Can Gary Bettman raise the NHL before it sinks the season?
_____From The Post_____
Labor agency joins NHL negotiations.
Norman Chad: Gary Bettman is a commissioner of nothing.
_____ Monday Morning_____ A look back at the weekend and a look ahead at the coming week's action with a fresh new edge.
• Norman Chad's Couch Slouch
• Starting Lineup
• The Chat: Joel McHale, host of E!'s "The Soup"
• 7 Days
• The Review: Electronic Arts' NASCAR 2005: Chase for the Cup
_____ The Quote _____ "I was once No. 2 in the world ... and it got to the stage if I'd won the Scottish Open at Loch Lomond and Greg Norman had missed the cut in America, I would have got to No. 1. He didn't, I didn't and Tiger Woods was born. And it's been downhill ever since."
-- Colin Montgomerie
_____ The Monday Morning Poll _____
_____ From The Post _____ • Mario Lemieux and Wayne Gretzky take part in six-hour meeting between NHL and players' union but no deal is reached.
• Commissioner Gary Bettman officially cancels the NHL season.
• There is speculation about where the league goes from here and whether it can survive.
• Michael Wilbon: There's no question the league and its owners won this particular battle.
• The cancellation may work to the Capitals' advantage in time.
• Q&A: What's next?
_____ On Our Site _____ • Audio: The Post's Thomas Heath discusses the end of the season.
• Video: Bettman announces the cancellation of the season.
• What's Your Opinion?
_____ Lockout At a Glance _____ • NO SEASON: The NHL season was canceled Feb. 16 over a lockout that started before training camps opened last September. It's the first major North American sport to lose an entire season to a labor dispute.
• THE REASON: The NHL and the players' association couldn't resolve how to split revenues from the $2 billion industry. The league demanded a salary cap, but by the time the players agreed to that, it was too late to work out how much the cap would be.
• WHAT'S NEXT?: The NHL could seek the declaration of an impasse, which allowing it to implement its last offer, open training camps in September and invite players back. The players' association would likely respond with a strike.
But he's a man like the rest of us -- albeit with that monogrammed "GBB" on his shirts -- and most days when he steps out of his limousine, his Blackberry operates no faster than anyone else's. Here's a glimpse inside his mind, courtesy of The Bettman Diaries, obtained illicitly by a friend of mine who was delivering a Harry and David Cabana Tower of Snacks to the commissioner's Manhattan office and swiped his journal while Bettman was on the phone making squash court reservations:
Monday. I've got to be honest -- I don't miss midweek Thrashers-Rangers games at the Garden. . . . Left another phone message for David Stern to call me this morning. . . . Just glanced at last year's standings, and for the life of me, I can't remember when we put a team in Carolina. . . . Memo to self: Call cable operator to order NBA League Pass.
Tuesday. The players need a players' association like termites need a termites' association. . . . Why aren't the Krispy Kremes delivered here daily warm? . . . Called David Stern again; told his secretary to make calling me back a "priority." . . . If I ever publicly admit that I always feel cold when I'm in a hockey arena, the media will fry my butt. . . . Memo to self: Why do we have two intermissions?
Wednesday. Some days the phone won't stop ringing and I'm lucky if I see more than 10 minutes of "The Tony Danza Show". . . . If the lockout extends into April, I can finally use my time-share in Puerto Vallarta. . . . Memo to self: Remember to tape "CSI: NY" tonight.
Thursday. What's the deal with David Stern? I carry his water for years upon years and invent the freakin' salary cap for him so he can wave to the crowd as the NBA sultan savior, and now he won't return my phone calls? . . . If the press ever gets wind of my Winter 2002 "Player Lockout/Break the Union" mission statement, I won't be able to get a curling job in Canada. . . . I can almost taste Ben & Jerry's Cherry Garcia ice cream in my mouth right now. . . . Memo to self: Make sure to leave Bob Goodenow a phone message after business hours tomorrow.
Friday. David Stern finally agrees to meet at some diner off the Jersey Turnpike on Saturday. How did I go from Ben Benson's to a cheeseburger deluxe with this joker? . . . Remember that Sports Illustrated cover story "Why the NHL Is Hot and the NBA Is Not" -- from a few years back? If I could recall who wrote that baby, I'd bet you dollars to doughnuts we could get him to write a similar story if I just bought that writer lunch again. . . . Memo to self: Ask kitchen to take all poppy seeds off my poppy seed bagels, effective next week.
Saturday. Well, my driver took me to the Jersey site David Stern directed me to. My God, it was a truck stop. I recognized it from "Hoffa" -- that's where they whacked him. I told Gus not to stop. . . . Anyone who thinks we're bargaining in bad faith never saw me negotiate my pre-nup. . . . Memo to self: I know several influential sports columnists who might like an Inscribed Gordie Howe Limited Series Hockey Puck Paperweight for their desks.
Sunday. I still think we can float the idea of a 16-game regular season -- the NFL plays 16 games, right? -- if I can sell "Monday Night Hockey" to the networks. . . . Taped poker does bigger TV numbers than live hockey? Actually, as a kid, I remember I loved watching my father play gin rummy at the club. . . . Memo to self: For the life of me, I cannot find my Louis Vuitton cufflinks.
Ask The Slouch
Q. If your life depended on Jose Canseco telling the truth, wouldn't you be a slight favorite to be dead? (Steve Englehart; Berwyn, Ill.)
A. I actually believe many of Canseco's claims, although he lost me in Chapter 6 of his new book when he mentioned he injected steroids into Roy Hobbs.
Q. The TV commercials for Cialis advise that if your erection lasts for more than four hours, you should seek medical attention. Of what might this medical attention consist? (Dick Schneider; Hudson, Ohio)
A. Heck, my HMO doesn't even cover paper cuts.
Q. What exactly was Jason Giambi apologizing for? (Don Burnett; Cayce, S.C.)
A. Traveling across state lines with a sports agent.
Q. When you ensconce yourself in your basement apartment to escape the horrors of your own personal hell, do you ever find yourself thinking, "Go Dayton!"? (John Tangeman; Seattle)
A. That question spooks me so much, I'm just going to give you the buck twenty-five and pray you go away.
You, too, can enter the $1.25 Ask The Slouch Cash Giveaway. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org and, if your question is used, you win $1.25 in cash!