@JoshYohe_TribJaymes Hall is a 41-year-old resident of Lancaster, Pa. He rocks a thick goatee, dark-rimmed glasses and a well-worn hat, looking very much like a guy you'd expect to see sitting in the cheap seats at a hockey game.
Hall is, in fact, a hockey fan — of the Philadelphia Flyers — and a frustrated one at that. Which is why he decided to pay Gary Bettman and Donald Fehr a visit on Wednesday — and ended up in a tense, public chat with the NHL commissioner.
The NHL and the NHLPA were meeting in Manhattan, another in a seemingly endless series of negotiations during their lockout. According to the New York Daily News, Hall was in town visiting family, and decided to take his sons to NHL headquarters on 6th Avenue where the sides were meeting.
After the talks broke off, Fehr and the NHLPA were the first to meet the media scrum. Hall positioned himself over the union chief's left shoulder, among the assembled press. He reacted incredulously when Fehr said the NHL had rejected the players' latest proposal; he even got a question in regarding what Fehr's next move might be in the negotiation (around 5:15 in the following clip):
Later, Bettman met the media. Hall asked another question, though much more aggressively. Bettman shut him down … but eventually gave this angry fan a chance to rant to him face to face.
According to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Hall shouted during Bettman's press availability:
"Why not freeze the revenue generated from those sources that are still in dispute?" he screamed. "What about an escrow account or something so we can get back to playing? Let's get back to playing! The fans are angry!"
At this point, a reporter asked a question only to be interrupted again by Hall.
Bettman, who has overseen three labor stoppages in less than 20 years on the job, then addressed the fan. "Excuse me one second," Bettman said. "I'm in the middle of a media scrum. I'd be happy to talk to you when we're done. You're not credentialed media. I think it's unfortunate and unfair to these people."
Hall responded: "I'm a fan!"
Snapped Bettman: "I know you're a fan. I'd be happy to talk with you."
Whether he was happy is obviously a point of debate; but Bettman did talk to the fan. (Say what you will about the guy, but he's not one to run away from a debate.)
Pat Leonard of the NY Daily News had a transcript of Bettman's talk with Hall. Here's a snippet:
HALL: "Put the money (in dispute) aside so nobody touches it and let the people get back to playing hockey. Eventually that pot's going to build. But the guy who makes money selling parking spots — let him get back to making a living."
BETTMAN: "The impact that this is having on everybody associated with the league is not lost on us. Believe me. But the fact of the matter is, when you're dealing with a union and they're really not trying to negotiate any deal that you can live with for the long-term health of this game, there isn't much else you can do. And we're hoping that with the passage of time, the players' association will come to realize that what we have proposed is more than fair. And the fact that we're keeping this proposal on the table, when it was contingent upon an 82-game schedule, should be evidence of our desire to get this done the right way."
After the exchange, Hall apologized for the outburst. Bettman wished him a happy Thanksgiving.
Hall no doubt knew one way it could have been happier this year.
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