At the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference this past winter, Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke was asked to identify the best negotiator he'd worked with throughout his career.
"Gary Bettman," he said. "There's smart — and then there's Bettman smart. He's a very three-steps-ahead type guy."
Burke, who was onstage as part of a panel called "The Art and Analytics of Negotiation," gave an example of the NHL commissioner's inner Bobby Fischer.
"Actually had to ask him to slow down a few times when we were doing the CBA back in '94," he said. "Because he's getting ahead of all of us, talkin' to himself in the room: 'Well, this won't work,' 'Well, yeah, but in three years ' Huh?"
Last night Bettman once again delivered a speed-talking monologue on collective bargaining that left people bewildered, though this time it wasn't behind closed doors.