Getty ImagesIf you needed more confirmation that Donald Fehr has become a pest of Esa Tikkanen proportions for the National Hockey League, know this: Commissioner Gary Bettman requested on Wednesday that the NHL and the NHLPA take a two-week moratorium on negotiations, according to multiple sources.
Everyone go to their corners. Deep breaths. Think happy thoughts.
A response has yet to be given. Fehr, the NHLPA's executive director, told the NHL commissioner he wanted to take the offer to his membership before providing an answer.
The requested break comes after talks fell silent following six consecutive days of meetings between the sides last week in New York. It was clear by the end of that run that pessimism and some bad feelings had made their way into the proceedings.
So the NHL wants to get its Ross and Rachel on.
I've been told the proceedings between the two sides have been cordial: Outside of an outburst by a few players near the end of a negotiating session in New York, there haven't been a lot of fireworks.
But it's clear the Fehr's tactics — refusing to negotiate off the NHL's framework, for example — have pushed the NHL to the point where they need to burn a time out.
"We have made repeated moves in the Players' direction with absolutely no reciprocation. Regardless of what we propose or how we suggest to compromise the answer is 'no,' At some point you have to say 'enough is enough.'"
While you contemplate how the players coming off of the 57 percent of the revenue the owners gave them seven years ago isn't some level of reciprocation -- in a work stoppage that isn't their doing -- consider how a two week break in talks could impact a potential season.
Gone would be a Dec. 1 start date and a 70-game campaign, and with it revenues that could at least be respectable. We're nearing the point where the 2012-13 season would be a mulligan for profits; an empty shell of a campaign that's held to give out the Stanley Cup, burn years off of contracts and avoid the cancellation of a season, which would slow the League's momentum to snail-watching-paint-drying levels.
As for Fehr, know this: There's real concern that his stalling tactics, while effective, may push this thing past the brink. That he has a "drop dead date" in mind for the talks, but that it might be beyond the threshold for saving the season that the owners have in their minds.
Fehr still has to go back to the NHLPA membership to ask its thoughts on the break; and Bettman hasn't said he wouldn't talk to the NHLPA during that stretch.
Hopefully this just another ploy to get the players back to the table; otherwise, we'd be very interested to hear how a League that's been selling the idea that time is running short to save the season would propose to sit back, watch Blu-Ray box sets of "The Wire" and lay off the CBA talks for 14 days.