On the surface, prospects for an end to the NHL's 2-month lockout took a nosedive this week, when commissioner Gary Bettman proposed a 2-week moratorium in talks after bargaining reached yet another standstill. Behind the scenes, there seems to be a seismic shift going on among the NHL's Board of Governors, also known as the group that Bettman answers to collectively. And Flyers chairman Ed Snider may be the big mover-and-shaker behind it all. Multiple sources confirmed to the Daily News on Friday that Snider, once seen as a supporter of the Bettman's push to rein in the players' share of revenue, has soured on the process after it became apparent that a deal would not be brokered in time for a Dec. 1 puck drop. Put simply: Snider and the rest of the NHL's owners were promised a big win by Bettman, with player concessions on revenue division and contracting rights. The best they'll get now is a small win in revenue split - coupled with a demoralized fan base and all-important corporate sponsors that are ready to quit.
Ed Snider owns the Flyers, but he also owns a chunk of Comcast and its subsidiary, NBC. NBC has committed billions of dollars to the NHL over the next 10 years on the basis of strong revenue growth that's now at stake. The longer this lockout goes on, the more long-term damage it may do to both the league and its top corporate partners. Not to mention that NBC Sports Network is really struggling at the moment without an anchor sport like the NHL. It will be interesting to see if Snider and other owners like James Dolan, Geoff Molson, and Larry Tanenbaum (on behalf of Rogers/Bell) step up and pressure the league to make a deal. Dolan owns MSG, Molson owns MolsonCoors (a major NHL sponsor), and MLSE is obviously now owned by Rogers/Bell - three groups that have way more money invested in the NHL than just their team ownership.