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Give NHL commissioner Gary Bettman credit for pushing Tampa Bay Lightning owners to resolve their issues -- one way or another



Regardless of how you feel about the Tampa Bay Lightning's ownership issues, no matter if you believe Len Barrie or Oren Koules should have control of the team or if you think former owner Palace Sports & Entertainment should come back in the picture, you have to give commissioner Gary Bettman credit for at least pushing to get the situation resolved.

As we read in Sunday's paper, Bettman has given Barrie a 60-day exclusive window to see if he can buy out Koules. If he fails, Koules gets a shot. If he fails, the league could find another buyer or former owner Palace Sports, which financed about $70 million of the $200 million purchase price and lent OK Hockey another $30 million in operating capital, could take the team back.

In other words, there are a lot of moving parts, but at least there is a direction forward, and it all started with Bettman's June 23 meeting at his New York officewith Koules and Barrie in which he ordered them to try to work out their financial and philosophical differences about how to run and build the team.

Bettman, certainly with the help of deputy commissioner Bill Daly, set deadlines and conditions. They made sure GM Brian Lawton could do his job as head of hockey operations without undue influence from the owners. How important was that? Lawton himself has described trying to run the team last season as "chaos" with so many opinions coming from so many directions. Lawton, too, deserves credit for a great summer in which he bolstered the blue line, cut payroll and, perhaps, can land one more forward to play with Vinny Lecavalier.

So give credit for the league for recognizing an unsustainable situation and at least pushing these guys forward to getting this thing resolved one way or another. It's probably a long way from being over (even if Barrie or Koules comes up with new investors, they must go through the NHL's due diligence and be approved by the Board of Governors) but at least there seems to be a road map. And that's something. Isn't it? 

[Last modified: Sunday, August 16, 2009 4:39pm]


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