Words are meaningless when they land on the ears of skeptics.
Anyone who isn't skeptical when it comes to statements from the NHL and NHLPA as the lockout steams toward 2013 is only fooling themselves and falling for the latest round of PR stunts from both sides.
NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly was interviewed on HNIC Radio (Hockey Night in Canada Radio) earlier this week and did his job, telling the fans what they want to hear, as HNIC's Elliotte Friedman reported (via Twitter):
Context of Daly quote: Asked him if there would be a season. Told him he could only give a yes or no answer, that "I don't know"...— Elliotte Friedman (@FriedgeHNIC) December 19, 2012
was not allowed. He answered in the affirmative. There you go.— Elliotte Friedman (@FriedgeHNIC) December 19, 2012
Donald Fehr, head of the NHLPA, was asked for his reaction to Daly's answer, which he gladly offered (h/t ESPN):
That's good news. I'm glad to hear that. I certainly hope he's right. That's the players' goal; that's what we want to try and do.
Hopefully, we'll get back together and negotiate out the remaining issues as soon as possible.
That all sounds promising, doesn't it?
I hate to burst your bubble, but it's meaningless drivel from two sides that have a lot to prove before being given the benefit of the doubt.
There is no reason to expect the situation to get better.
Two facts are being overlooked in Daly's statement.
First, he never actually said that "the season" was the 2012-13 season, though that's certainly what people believe he implied. Yet he never actually said the words "Yes, I believe there will be some condensed version of a 2012-13 NHL season."
More importantly, the NHL isn't rushing back to the negotiating table, as NESN notes (via Twitter):
Bill Daly Thinks NHL Will Have Season, But Admits 'There Must Be a Reason' for Negotiations to Resume wp.me/p2AlCJ-ujO— NESN (@NESN) December 20, 2012
Saving the 2012-13 regular season—and the future of the league—isn't enough of a reason?
Despite having no negotiating sessions scheduled, Daly, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman's right-hand man, went out of his way to show how flexible the NHL is being, as Tom Gulitti of The Record notes (via Twitter):
If NHL and NHLPA actually try to schedule a meeting, Bill Daly said league would be available to meet Christmas.— Tom Gulitti (@TGfireandice) December 20, 2012
So let me get this straight: The NHL refuses to engage the NHLPA in negotiations again unless there's a reason to do so (with the future of the league obviously not a big enough reason), yet the league is announcing it would be happy to meet on Christmas day?
I'm sure that's a convenient date for the majority of the NHLPA's negotiating team.
Putting conditions on negotiations is setting yourself up for failure, and failure is all we have seen on both sides of the aisle throughout this process.
Both sides have made claims over the past few months that have gotten people hopeful that an end was in sight, only to pull the rug right out from underneath the fans.
No longer will NHL fans be the Charlie Brown to both sides playing the part of Lucy, yanking the football away just as we bring our leg forward to kick it.
There's only one thing that can happen to turn the skeptics into believers: seeing actual NHL games being played.
Until then, both sides can save their breath.
Nobody's buying what they are selling.
Rick Weiner is a member of B/R's Breaking News Team