OK, hockey fans, the inevitable started on Thursday: the NHL started to cancel regular season games. All games through October 24 have hereby been canceled, and it is very possible they will never be made up.
Unfortunately for those of us that love the game, the cancellation of roughly two weeks worth of games probably won't help get a deal done any faster. If anything, it is probably just a few more drops of water in a very large bucket that needs to filled up before we see enough movement to reach a solution.
Here are some reasons the NHL's decision to cancel games isn't going to get a deal done any time soon:
1) After 2004-05, the owners don't need to prove they are serious to the players by canceling games.
Heck, the owners already destroyed an entire season eight years ago during the last lockout. By comparison, wiping out two weeks of games at the beginning of the season is child's play. Donald Fehr isn't stupid. He knew coming into this job that the owners are willing to burn down to village in order to "save it." Canceling the first two weeks of the regular season doesn't really change anything.
2) Neither side is showing much urgency.
The sides met last weekend for the first time since the lockout began on September 16. That means nearly two weeks went by without any discussions taking place at all. Negotiations broke off again Tuesday after a two-hour meeting and it seems like both the players and owners are just trying to lay the blame on the other side rather than working toward a solution.
Donald Fehr said, "'The decision to cancel the first two weeks of the NHL season is the unilateral choice of the NHL owners. If the owners truly cared about the game and the fans, they would lift the lockout and allow the season to begin on time while negotiations continue."
Meanwhile, NHL VP Bill Daly said, "Obviously, we've been saying for over a month now that we would welcome a new proposal from the Players' Association. That continues to be our position."
This is all still a PR battle rather than a true negotiation.
3) Negotiations are going nowhere.
When the two sides did meet earlier this week, they didn't even discuss the core economic issue surrounding the lockout: How to divide the $3.3 billion revenue pie that the league now represents. They only discussed smaller issues and the two sides couldn't even agree on them. Essentially, everything remains stuck at square one. No progress has been made.
4) Both sides are digging in.
The owners feel like time is on their side. They believe (and they aren't wrong on this) that the players have a limited career and the longer the lockout lasts, the more the players will feel the economic pinch. Basically put, in a contest between billionaires and millionaires, the millionaires will feel the strain first.
Meanwhile, more and more players are finding work elsewhere. Young players have been sent to the AHL or back to their junior teams. Many veterans have found work in European leagues. No, it's not quite an NHL paycheck, but it's decent money that will tide them over until the NHL gets underway again.
So unfortunately, this seems like just the beginning of what is looking more and more like a long process. Eventually, this lockout will end, and the NHL will start up again. What we don't know yet is how long that will take, and how much damage will be done to the game in the meantime.
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