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We all stand here gathered today to watch the USS Roger Goodell set sail for unknown waters. In last night’s farewell ceremony, Green Bay quarterback gave a rousing sendoff as he smacked the ship with the Vince Lombardi trophy. This is a journey that will test the intelligence, patience, and negotiation abilities of those on board. The owners, players, and fans all watch carefully in hopes that the ship comes back in one piece. With a new CBA as its target, safety isn’t guaranteed.

RogerGoodell

Stashed away in the belly of the ship is a stowaway that will continue to hide until the deal is complete. That man is NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman. His purpose isn’t to get involved. Rather, the best thing for this secret admirer is to watch without touching. For you see, he will be experiencing similar things as his league will be negotiating a new CBA in 2012.

For all the NHL fans out there, we hope that Bettman takes as many notes as he can. Before the ship even set sail, there were golden opportunities to learn from. If he hasn’t taken notice yet, let us run through a few things that he should pick up based on what has happened already.

1.) Let the Media Feast on something else.

In the heat of things you, certainly don’t want negotiations being played in the media. On top of that, want you really don’t want is the media running on limbs with “sources” stories. For instance, just in the last few days, ESPN ran a story on how each NFL team was able to save $10 million due to the fact that the league was not required to fund player benefits in uncapped years. While 10 million per team might be a drop in the bucket, ESPN was ESPN and hyped it up as another strong arm against the players and declared promptly put the number 320 million up on the front page.

What is ESPN did was in their right and not that unexpected. But when you flash up 320 against 10, you’ll make the common fan jump off a bridge. Simple tactics then demolishes the fans’ sense of security. And if you’re thinking that most fans would read the fine print, maybe they would, but I wouldn’t bet on it. Drama sells high in America and if people start to jump to conclusions, it could mean extra financial losses.

2.) Make sure there isn’t any structural damage.

If there is one good thing that Bettman probably won’t deal with is a total reconstruction of the regular season for more games. Changing the number of regular season games without other changes could put the quality of the game on the fast track to mediocrity. If the owners are serious in changing the amount of games, there is one way to do it. However, it involves a word from the depths of Dante’s Inferno. Say it with me Commissioner – Contraction. On the other side of the coin, player contracts are surely to be a main thorn, especially how GMs are trying to sidestep the salary cap.

3.) Cap the Tweets, lest ye let a tweet cap you.

Oh Twitter. We love you. We love you so much that we have our players take jabs at each other… on the CBA. Wait, that doesn’t sound right, does it?

Although they might think of it as just a conversation amongst themselves, Matt Hasselbeck and Antonio Cromartie arguing over Cromartie’s intelligence level isn’t going to boost the bargaining power of the players. If anything, squabbles amongst the players hurts the league as a whole, especially when they start arguing about off field/ice issues. It really puts the union in an awkward position.

As a precaution, let the two sides agree that nothing gets out through the players’ social media adventures. You don’t need a ban on the outlet, but make sure it is used for the proper purposes – to talk about absolute nonsense. Not collective bargaining agreements.

4.) Don’t pull poor PR stunts.

Last but not least, do not follow in the salary footsteps of Commissioner Goodell. Lowering his salary to $1 in an event of a work stoppage does nothing. We know that Commissioner Goodell earns roughly $4 million dollars per year. We also know that he is a very intelligent person. I seriously doubt that he isn’t prepared to forfeit his salary for a year. His quality of life will not drop at all due to a work stoppage. In fact, I’d be more willing to bet that if he ran into financial trouble, a “secret” benefactor would emerge and cover any outstanding personal balances.

Commissioner Bettman, if there is anything to take away before you personally set sail on your own ship, please note that the key to all of CBA negotiations is to keep the media guessing. It isn’t in the league’s (or the players’) best interest to air everything out in hopes of getting things done sooner.  Keep the doors closed. It might suck all the air out of journalists and bloggers alike, but the only thing we truly care about is that the game continues to move forward. Answer the basic foundation questions and it should keep us busy. As it stands now, the current NHL CBA expires will expire in September of 2012. Commissioner Bettman, the clock has starting ticking. Relax though – you have plenty of time. Be sure to learn from the present.