Bettman offers up harsh truth

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:24 AM ET

A pep rally or damage control?

National Hockey League commissioner Gary Bettman likely was involved in a bit of both yesterday during a state-of-the-union tour at the Air Canada Centre.

Bettman held an afternoon meeting with employees of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment Ltd., many of whom have been and will continue to be adversely effected by the ongoing NHL lockout.

Should no collective bargaining agreement be in place by Jan. 15, a handful of workers on the hockey side will be facing layoffs.

Some others with MLSEL -- including certain officials with the Raptors -- are slated to get pay cuts at that time believed to be in the 25% range.

Like many of the fans who fill the ACC for home games, MLSEL employees harboured questions about the labour mess, especially since the Leafs are one of the more financially lucrative franchises.

"(Bettman) was great," MLSEL senior vice-president Tom Anselmi said.

"He walked them through what the league is attempting to accomplish and how the NHL's agenda is just as important for the Toronto Maple Leafs as it is for any team."

Bettman also spoke with the executive board of MLSEL.

"The fans in Toronto can feel very good that the guardians of this franchise get it, love it, and care about it as nobody else," Bettman told Leafs TV.

Bettman is in town to meet with NHL Players' Association head Bob Goodenow tomorrow.


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