The NHL Players Association and the NHL's braintrust spent the weekend dancing around the edges of the core economic issues in their collection bargaining, knowing full well that the music's going to stop soon.
Bill Daly, the NHL's deputy commissioner, says the union isn't prepared to schedule meetings specifically to talk about those issues, via NHL.com:
"What we're doing now and what we've done for the last two days, I don't think any of that is going to get a deal done but they are all necessarily elements of the deal," Daly said. "Again, I hate to keep saying it because I'm going to sound like a broken record, but we need some movement on the economic issues [from the Union]. We need some movement on the system issues. We need them to be scheduled as a subject of a meeting. Right now, the Union is not prepared to do that."
The NHLPA, meanwhile, wants to figure out how to "bridge the gap on the major issues" according to Donald Fehr, believing the players had made significant movement on their share of the revenue.
And thus, the stalemate continues. And thus, regular-season games will be cancelled this week, as Elliotte Friedman reported: "NHL teams preparing for regular-season cancellations this week. Expectations games will be erased in two-week 'blocks.'"
And thus, pessimism has spread throughout the hockey world, not only about the current negotiation but also for the fate of the season.
Josh Yohe of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review wrote on Sunday:
The league isn't going to budge. There will be an entire season lost before the NHL budges. We've seen it before and, scary as it might sound, we'll see it again if the NHLPA refuses to make concessions.
You can make the argument that this is unfair for the NHLPA. And perhaps it is.
But the reality remains, if we're going to see hockey this season, Donald Fehr and the players are going to have to take slightly rest revenue then they are currently demanding. History tells us the NHL simply won't budge. It's up to the NHLPA to do so, unless another season is to be lost.
The problem is, according to Adrian Dater, that the players see this thing as personal with Gary Bettman after the last lockout. Which is really bad news for the rest of us:
They aren't going to take much less than 57, and certainly nothing on the order of 47. They'll sit out the whole year if there is no alternative.
They'll let Bettman and his crew of 30 owners wrestle with all those empty dates and lost revenues from the playoffs and Winter Classic. Half the players will make some cash in Europe, and the rest of the rank-and-file will take about $10-15K a month in NHLPA war chest money. They'll get by on that for a year anyway.
It all comes down to this simple truth, to the players: no way in hell is the short, old guy with the New York accent who never played the game going to push them around this time. They have their rallying cry this time, and his name is Gary Bettman, and anything short of total victory over this man won't be acceptable to the rank-and-file of the NHL players union this time around.
(An aside: The players might see Bettman as the "New York accent" guy who "never played the game", which would be every 1995 of them. But the bottom line is that for all the loathing of Bettman, for all the anger towards him and resentment of him … after 20 years, are we really going to claim the guy doesn't have an affinity for hockey?)
(And yes, it does make me want to gargle with turpentine having written that.)
So that's where we are: Pessimismville. Glumburgh. The Negative Zone. A stalemate whose end is nowhere in sight.