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Gary Bettman’s awkward Hall of Fame speech touches on NHL’s ‘difficult times’

Getty ImagesShould Gary Bettman have spoken at the 2012 Hockey Hall of Fame induction?

Of course not. He's the single most divisive figure in the NHL, seen as the catalyst for an embarrassing lockout that's kept the game at a standstill in North America — the third work stoppage of his tenure. His presence could only take those in attendance out of their moment of nostalgic bliss, snapping them back into the cold reality of the NHL's sad current state.

Even if you buy the counterargument that Bettman's absence would have been even more conspicuous, there's no denying his brief appearance on Monday night was all sorts of awkward.

(And if a photo's worth 1,000 words, here are 1,000 words on Bettman's speech.)

Bettman's speech honored the four inductees, lauding "four legendary scorers. Four outstanding leaders who hail from four different parts of the hockey world."

It also made cursory mention of the lockout in his speech. Via ESPN.com:

"Being here in this great Hall, the sanctuary of our game, celebrates everything that is good and right about hockey," Bettman said during his speech.

"Even in difficult times, we find ourselves reassured to be here to recognize ultimate achievements on the ice. All of us — fans, teams and players — look forward to the time the game returns there."

Read Nick Cotsonika's coverage from the Hockey Hall of Fame induction, including Joe Sakic, Adam Oates and Mats Sundin on the year they lost in the last lockout.

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