Bettman calls Snider report a ‘fabrication’

Gary Bettman has called Frank Seravalli’s report that Philadelphia Flyers chairman Ed Snider is now eager to cut a deal and get the game back on the ice a “fabrication.”

As the respected Seravalli wrote Saturday for the Philadelphia Daily News, “a source familiar with Snider’s thinking characterized it as: ‘If this is the deal we are going to get, what’s the point of dragging this out?’ ”

The Daily News story detailed Snider’s influence over Bettman; multiple anonymous sources indicated that the 79-year-old “lynchpin” in the CBA negotiations is leading a shift from supporting the lockout to wanting it to end as soon as possible.

Snider released a statement characterizing the article as “absolutely erroneous.”

In a 30-minute phone conversation with Gary Lawless of the Winnipeg Free Press, Bettman gave a rare one-on-one interview Sunday and addressed Seravalli’s report.

“It was a fabrication. Ed Snider is the one who told me about the article when he found out about it and he was terribly upset. He’s in Europe and it was his idea to put out a statement,” Bettman told the Free Press. “Anyone who doubts the resolve of ownership is either uninformed or (being) intentionally misleading.”

Seravalli responded to Bettman’s charge through Twitter Monday morning, and the Daily News is standing by its story:

The idea of Snider encouraging a quick settlement was just one of several topics Bettman touched on over the course of the Q&A.

The NHL commissioner also responded to Detroit Red Wings defenceman Ian White calling him “an idiot” and defended that his love for the players transcends the ugliness of a work stoppage.

“You’ll find in the course of labour disputes, there’s always a lot of rhetoric. Most of it is just noise. Most of it is misinformed. There’s propaganda. It’s just a fact of life that you live with,” Bettman told the Free Press. “By the way, I love the players. Nobody should think for a moment that I don’t. If I didn’t I wouldn’t do this job. I couldn’t do this job. I believe in the players. I don’t believe in what’s going on right now. It’s part of the business of the game. The least attractive part of the game.”

Despite the financial challenges plaguing teams such as the Phoenix Coyotes, Bettman reiterated in the interview that he believes each of the NHL’s 30 franchises is viable and can be successful.

“Each franchise counts for lots of player jobs and other jobs and is important to its community. Most important, this notion that clubs are not willing to help other clubs is simply not true. We are simply at a percentage under our old deal where our player costs, for a whole host of reasons, are just too high. If you look at the experience in the two other sports where revenue is shared with the players, namely football and basketball, the players in those sports acknowledged exactly what we’ve been saying,” Bettman told Lawless.

As for the two-week negotiating break he proposed Tuesday — which drew the ire from players such as Joffrey Lupul, Claude Giroux and John-Michael Liles on Twitter — Bettman told the Free Press it was simply an idea he brought up in an informal conversation with NHLPA chief Donald Fehr.

“I said maybe we should take a little downtime, a couple of weeks, especially since we had just five sessions in six days and nothing was produced. In light of that fact he didn’t know how to proceed, I said that as a suggestion. He gave it a long pause and then said, ‘I don’t think so.’ I said OK.

“So this notion that we proposed a moratorium is nothing more than union rhetoric. We were always willing to go back to the table. The lines of communication are open. They know they have our best offer, which is a 50-50 sharing and the other issues that we’ve proposed to them. They proposed 17 issues last week and we agreed to 13 of them. We know where the negotiations led to, they know they have our best offer. We’ve always said if they have something to discuss, we’re always available to meet.”

The two sides are scheduled to meet Monday evening in New York City. It will be their first formal meeting since Nov. 11.