Mar. 30, 2012; Columbus, OH, USA; Florida Panthers right wing Kris Versteeg (32) prior to a face off during the first period against the Columbus Blue Jackets at Nationwide Arena. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-US PRESSWIRE

Former Toronto Maple Leaf Kris Versteeg Latest Player To Publicly Rip Gary Bettman

Florida Panthers forward Kris Versteeg was a guest on Blue Lunch with Bryan Hayes and Jamie McLennan on TSN 1050 Toronto yesterday afternoon. When asked how frustrated he is with the stalled CBA talks, Versteeg vented.

“Obviously I’m really frustrated. It’s not good. You do try to look at the best-case scenarios moving forward once a CBA does get done, and you gotta look for the cancers and you gotta cut out the cancers, and I think when you look at Bill Daly and Gary Bettman, they’ve been polluting this game for far too long.”

Versteeg didn’t hold back when he was asked if the NHL’s longtime commissioner should be fired.

“I do believe so. I mean, you gotta look at the fans, and they’ve been left with too many bad tastes in their mouths for too many years, and I think when this is all said and done, it’ll be a good time to finally make that happen.”

Versteeg went on to say that even as a kid following the NHL, Bettman left “a bad taste” in his mouth.

“Obviously you try to think that everyone involved in the game is trying to do the best for the game, and you hope that they are, but going into the next CBA after this one, who says things are going to change? I think you need to give the fans a glimmer of hope, especially going into the next CBA after this one.”

Versteeg isn’t the only player to share this sentiment. Detroit Red Wings defenseman Ian White, another former Maple Leaf, made headlines last week after calling Bettman an “idiot” in an interview with the Detroit Free Press.

White actually shared some good thoughts and insight into what the players are thinking in the interview, but once you call someone else an idiot, let alone the guy who represents your boss, it somewhat renders your entire opinion void. It’s childish and not remotely constructive.

The irony of a hockey player questioning the intelligence of a man with a doctorate in Law aside, it’s evident the players are becoming increasingly more frustrated the longer this labour battle continues. It’s a bit ridiculous to think the players might stage an uprising on union boss Donald Fehr and accept whatever meager scraps Bettman throws at them so they can get back on the ice, but with their third paycheque of the season headed out the window this week, you start to wonder if their agitation might eventually cause action.

Bettman has never been one for popularity contests, so I think he can live without the approval of every member of the Players’ Association. His job as commissioner is to find the best possible deal for the league’s owners. Pointless name-calling won’t do the players any good; in fact, Bettman and Co. might just see it as a sign the union could be cracking ever so slightly.

That being said, both sides could be feeling the pressure of getting a deal done as meetings are set to continue today in New York. If no deal is reached by the end of this week, many are expecting the entire December slate of regular season games to be cancelled. Whichever side you think deserves the blame, both need to smarten up and get this deal done before we lose another full season and the NHL loses even more credibility as a professional sports league.

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Tags: Gary Bettman Kris Versteeg Toronto Maple Leafs

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