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Without a new deal, NHL lockout by September 15, says Gary Bettman

Rapper Li'l Commish27 days ago, we got our first tidbit of this summer's CBA negotiations as the NHL's initial proposal to the NHLPA was leaked. We learned that the owners were asking for some serious concessions from the players. Dread began to settle in.

That makes tomorrow 28 days later, and just like the movie of the same name, it would appear we're on the brink of a doomsday scenario. On Thursday, Commissioner Gary Bettman edged us a little closer to the edge with the announcement that we are indeed careening towards a lockout. If a new CBA isn't signed by September 15, well, hockey fan, it might be time to rub your eyes and go outside. Bettman, from TSN:

"We reiterated to the union that the owners will not play another year under the current agreement," he told a scrum of reporters in New York after the latest talks.

"I re-confirmed something that the union has been told multiple times over the last nine to 12 months. Namely, that the time is getting short and the owners are not prepared to operate under this collective bargaining agreement for another season so we need to get to making a deal and doing it soon. And we believe there's ample time for the parties to get together and make a deal and that's what we're going to be working towards."

Bettman is a master of spin. While outlining the scenario in which he and his cohorts will force a lockout, he also manages to characterize the NHLPA as chronic time-wasters who are forcing his hand with their dithering. (I've just been sitting around, waiting for them to call for, like, ever. The other day the owners brought ice cream for everyone and it totally melted by the time they showed up. Personally, I felt that was disrespectful.)

But the man has a point. After all, it's been nearly a month since their initial proposal, and according to reports, the NHLPA's first counter-proposal still won't be submitted on Tuesday.

It likely won't be well-received. "Let me just put it this way," Donald Fehr told Jesse Spector of the Sporting News. "There's a meaningful gulf there. I'll just leave it at that for now."

What's the gulf? Katie Strang provided us some insight:

But the word "econ" almost seems superfluous in that second sentence. There's a lot to work out.

Now, we should still retain a shred of optimism. There are, of course, 37 days remaining for the two sides to come to an amicable disagreement.

But, considering the meaningful gulf, and considering Bettman's on the way to his third work stoppage as commissioner -- the ever-elusive lockout hat trick --  even a shred of hope might be too optimistic at this point.

After all, the man only needs to trim 34 games from the 2012-13 schedule to reach 150 games lost as NHL commissioner, and when you're nearing a milestone, you have to go for it.

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