Progress isn't the end for Bettman

NEW YORK -- As the pinprick of light on the black canvas of the NHL lockout threatens to become a full-fledged beacon of light, already there is a rush to anoint the winners and losers, the heroes and goats.

That's life.

And while it may be a fool's errand to try to ferret out who bested whom in a wholly preventable labor stoppage -- with said labor stoppage still technically under way even though Wednesday marked more good news with continued forward traction between the players and the owners -- such discussion provides a window into future labor battles and the future of embattled NHL commissioner Gary Bettman.

Is Bettman a genius for suggesting that he and his NHL Players' Association counterpart, executive director Donald Fehr, step away from the process after a failed attempt at federal mediation last week?

Credit Bettman for understanding that with the season hanging in the balance, the air had become so toxic in those rare moments the two sides actually found enough reason to be in the same room that the loathing and mistrust trumped all other issues and that the two men stepping back would allow that air to be cleared.

And likewise, credit Fehr, whose plodding strategies had made league officials crazy during this process, for going along with the idea even though his first reaction must have been to tell Bettman to stuff it.

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