The man walked along a long hallway before setting foot in an eerily quiet, yet occupied, room. The men in the room, huddled around the lone table, seemed to be awaiting his arrival. At the sight of him they turned to one another before beginning to shout simultaneously. Unable to make out a word of this cacophony, the man sighed; he did not seem to want to be there. He cleared his throat to capture their attention to no avail.
Gary Bettman (standing): Gentlemen, gentlemen. Thank you for coming. I assume you know why I’ve summoned you all here?
(In unison) Daniel Alfredsson: Because I was allowed to walk away as the longest-serving current NHL captain and the most beloved player in Ottawa’s franchise history because of a petty argument over money and my worth.
Bryan Murray: Because I have to report to Eugene and you pity me for it, so you are relieving me of my duties.
Eugene Melnyk: Because the results of my forensic investigation are finally in!
Bettman: Daniel, Bryan, you know I can't help you with your current contracts. Eugene… umm… well… (shuffles his feet and stares at the floor) You know what, let’s move on. It has recently come to my attention that Daniel’s contract with the Senators, which expired in July 2013, could potentially be cap circumvention. That’s a pretty serious allegation, so we want to ensure that we have all the necessary facts before relaying a decision; we need to hear every side of the story. Please be honest; we wouldn’t want to pursue legal action against any of you. Now let’s start with you, Daniel. You claim in your latest press conference that it was understood between both you and the Ottawa Senators that you would not play during the last season of your deal, that is to say the 2012-2013 season. You would instead retire. Is that information accurate?
Alfredsson: At the time, yes, that was the arrangement.
Bettman (to Murray): Bryan?
Murray: That is accurate, Gary.
Bettman (to Melnyk): So, Eugene? Were you ever aware that any of this was going on?
Melnyk: Are you questioning my financial ability to manage an NHL team?
(Bettman looks down intently at the floor, as if he is attempting to change the colours of the floor’s tiles with the mere power of his mind.)
Melnyk: I’ve been on the record numerous times before, my financial situation is irreproachable! I don’t understand why these bloggers and journos keep wasting time trying to uncover dirt about me; it must be because it’s August.
Bettman (hesitating): No one said anything about your finances.
Melnyk (laughing): Of course not, I was joking! To answer your question, I was indeed made aware of Alfie’s contract structure.
Bettman: All right. Well, well, well, look at that! You actually can have the same story for something related to Daniel’s contract negotiations! (He laughs and slaps his knee; he looks around the room to see if anyone sees the genius in his comment.)
Alfredsson: We’d have the same story if they’d just admit that they lowballed me in negotiations.
Melnyk: Our story would’ve been the same if you would’ve stayed a Senator and weren’t so damn greedy!
(Murray, no longer paying attention to the ongoing argument, is scribbling “Please help me! Get me out of this!” on mini paper airplanes and throwing them across the table towards Bettman.)
Bettman (losing patience): Ok fellows. Let’s get back to the matter at hand here. All parties involved knew of the unspoken agreement. That’s a first step in the process. Now we must figure out if all parties knew of the illegal nature of this arrangement. Anyone would like to go first?
Matt Cooke (entering the room): I’d like to say something.
Bettman: Of course you would.
Cooke (to Melnyk): I injured your best player for almost the entirety of the season, and there’s absolutely nothing you or your investigation can do about it.
Bettman (irritably): Anything else?
Cooke: Yes; I just wanted to express my deepest admiration towards Eugene. (Eugene’s frown vanishes, replaced by a confounded look.) I never thought it would be humanly possible to find a personality more despised than me in Ottawa, so thank you for that!
Bettman (His face quickly turning a deep shade of purple): GET THIS CLOWN OUTTA HERE!
(Evander Kane enters the room. Cooke’s smile rapidly fades as he shows himself out, followed by Kane.)
Bettman: Let’s try this again. Bryan, were you aware of the legal implications of this agreement?
Murray: Yes, I was.
Melnyk: I knew of their existence.
Bettman: And Daniel?
Bettman: Gentlemen, thank you very much for your cooperation. I can now close this investigation.
Alfredsson: You mean… That’s it?
Bettman: That’s it.
Melnyk: You’re done? No fine, no lost draft pick, nothing?
Bettman: Oh my dear Eugene, of course not! I just wanted you all to confirm that this specific deal did not circumvent the spirit of the cap. Consider this is a warning to abstain from cap circumvention in future contracts, and promise me you won’t do this again.
Bettman: If you guys cannot vow to do this, then I’m afraid that the investigation will have to continue.
Alfredsson, Melnyk and Murray (in unison): I promise.
Bettman: Come on guys, this is insulting. You think that I can just take your word for it? This is exactly the kind of verbal, prearranged agreement that I’m trying to put a stop to. I need confirmation that you’ll stop: you need to pinky swear.
(The three men do as told, though they are somewhat reluctant.)
Bettman: Once again, thank you for your collaboration. I wish you all a great season. Oh, and Eugene, the Senators are now owned by the league. Thanks for your time!