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BETTMAN’S PURSUIT OF SALARY CAP BRINGING NHL TO BRINK OF STRIKE

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Like it or not, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman came into the league with his name linked to a disturbing and defining expression of modern sports: salary cap.

As if they were dirty words, Bettman has refrained from using them in the current labor talks with the NHL Players Association. But the union believes it is his relentless pursuit of a cap that has put the NHL on the brink of a ruptured season in less than a week.Bettman has been described by players as a "hired gun" and "union buster" brought in by the owners specificially to ram through a salary cap, as he had helped to do with the NBA in the 1980s.

"He represents the 26 owners," said the Los Angeles Kings' Marty McSorley, who is on the NHLPA negotiating committee. "We're more than aware of that."

Bettman has announced that he will postpone the season, scheduled to open Saturday, if a new contract can't be worked out by then. And many think that a lockout would put the NHL on the backburner for a while.

The announcement was hardly a surprise to the players.