No hurry or anything. - Al Bello
Bill Daly declared that the league is done negotiating for the upteenth time. Gary Bettman proposed a two week moratorium. Get ready for a ridiculous sideshow.
It takes an especially brilliant and flexible sort of mind to be able to discuss breaking off CBA talks for two weeks, and simultaneously complain about the lack of progress in them.
That's what Bill Daly managed to do on the NHL's behalf last night, triggering a fresh wave of disgusted reactions from everyone still following this whole mess.
A few days ago in my guide to surviving lockout news, I pointed out that at least they were still talking. That's not true any longer. So what does it mean? Is the season doomed?
The timeline of the 2012 lockout shows that the NHL has used this tactic before, even offering some of the same sound bites ("The players need to give us a reason to meet"). We're back in that cycle where the league hopes that mounting financial pressure will cause the union to break. As painful and irresponsible as this game is, it's also rather predictable.
Added to this round, though, is an extra dash of drama. League sources are now telling every reporter who will listen that the entire season is at risk, despite the fact that it's only mid-November. Here's a reality check: the 2005 season wasn't officially wiped out until February 16th.
Armageddon is somehow three months ahead of schedule -- if you believe them. From the Globe and Mail:
...[Y]es they’re angry at one another and not talking. But to say there hasn’t been any progress in the last eight weeks (or even two weeks) is just flat out wrong.
Financially speaking, we’re talking about two sides that are only $300-million or so apart in their proposals over the next five years. Even closer if you factor in what prorating the Year 1 salaries would do, which is the likely next step by the NHLPA.
Contractually speaking, there are three key issues at play and, while both sides are standing firm, they also indicate there’s some room to talk about their differences.
This isn’t the stuff of Armageddon. It may be frustrating and it may be ridiculous, but it’s not the end of the line, by any means.
In reality, the two sides aren't far apart. That's no guarantee a deal will get done--this is the NHL, after all--but bear this in mind when the fireworks go off.
As this season's canoe hurtles toward Niagra Falls, the posturing and the theatrics will become more intense. The best advice is to take little at face value, whether it's character attacks or dire warnings or unchecked rumor leaks. Almost everything said in public will be designed to prey on fear. Games will probably be canceled through mid-December. Eventually--and we sure as hell don't care who initiates it--the two sides will speak again. At that point, they'll figure out if they want to repeat the mistakes of 2005 all over again. (Our weary hearts will ask us why we still care.)
Maybe it's time for the rest of us on the sidelines to take a two week break ourselves. No CBA talk, just focusing on the parts of the game that still give us joy. Thanksgiving is coming. I don't know about you, but I'd rather relax and focus on family, pie, and beer.
Nothing much may happen while we're away, but the noises will be very loud.