Getty ImagesAs you're no doubt aware, Dec. 1 is known for being National Pie Day, in which hundreds of people who own novelty calendars consider eating pie before completely forgetting about the faux holiday's existence.
Ah, but if things continue to progress in the NHL's talks with the NHLPA — and there are some reasons to be optimistic, even with extreme caution — we might remember Dec. 1 as something else: Opening Night.
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It's a date that falls after the scheduled games that have already been cancelled. It's a date that falls between Thanksgiving (American!) and Christmas, which has generally been seen as the likely range for the season to start, should there be a season. It's the date Google's algorithms tell us the 2012-13 season will begin. It's the date John Shannon of Sportsnet told NESN would be right in line with the ongoing talks scheduled:
"The timeline's pretty straightforward. We need something done in the next 10 days. Followed by training camp. Followed by December the first when this season would start."
It is, as Kevin McGran of the Toronto Star wrote, the best case scenario:
The best-case scenario would seem to be a shortened schedule beginning on Dec. 1, although there remains time to drop the puck before then if a deal is reached soon. It's expected teams will hold seven-day training camps that begin once a new CBA is ratified.
So if the two sides can put on their big boy pants and Sidney Crosby uses his Hockey Jesus powers to heal the wounds and strike a deal, what might a season on Dec. 1 look like?
Jonathan Willis of Cult of Hockey ran through a few scenarios on Tuesday for a shortened season, and came up with this:
Assuming both parties agreed to a deal in principle today, and it took them a week to turn that compromise into a comprehensive collective bargaining agreement, we'd be looking at a regular season starting on November 21. Depending on what figures we use (the regular schedule, averaging 2.2 days per game or the compacted schedule, averaging 2.15 days per game) that's a 76- or 74-game season. Here's how that total shrinks as the delay on an agreement drags on:
November 21 start: 74-76 games.
December 1 start: 70-71 games.
January 1 start: 55-57 games.
February 1 start: 41-42 games.
Bottom line: The 82-game season is deader than Raffi Torres's Lady Byng hopes.
The range for the Dec. 1 season would be between 68-71 games, with the NHL All-Star Game cancelled (sorry Columbus) and with inter-conference action.
A 70-game NHL season would still feel like a season, rather than the 1995 season that wore an asterisk like an albatross (and still does). It may be long enough to drain ill will from fans, provide ample pay checks to players and build up some momentum for revenue growth.
And hey, if Donald Fehr is to be believed and this whole thing is set up like the NBA's lockout -- they had a 66-game season, and it worked out just dandy.
Of course, the talks could also break off, the lockout could continue and Dec. 1 reverts to primarily being National Pie Day. Sigh …