After months of misery, there's actually cause for hockey fans to be optimistic about the NHL returning to action.
For as miserable as the lockout has been, it's almost over.
The owners have done what nobody thought possible: they blinked first, as reported by ESPN's Pierre LeBrun (via Twitter):
An NHL player says the NHL made a new offer to the NHLPA on Thursday, one which moved on contract term limits, buyouts and variance...— Pierre LeBrun (@Real_ESPNLeBrun) December 28, 2012
Lisa Dillman of the Los Angeles Times reports that a drop-dead date was included in this latest offer:
The NHL submitted an amended collective bargaining proposal to the players' union that featured movement on the terms of contracts, proposing a six-year limit with an exception of seven-year agreements for clubs to re-sign their own free agents. Previously the proposal had been five years with the seven-year exception.
Included in the league's proposal was a deadline to start training camps by Jan. 12 for a Jan. 19 start to the season or the 2012-13 season would be canceled, according to a person with knowledge of the matter but not authorized to speak about it publicly.
That's two weeks from now.
Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Sun Times reports that not only is the 12th the date, but that the owners have put NHL commissioner Gary Bettman on notice:
A league source said the NHL wants camps to open Jan. 12th— Bruce Garrioch (@SunGarrioch) December 28, 2012
My sources say owners have privately informed Bettman cancelling the season is not an acceptable option.— Bruce Garrioch (@SunGarrioch) December 28, 2012
Bettman, who is now overseeing his second work stoppage in less than a decade, doesn't want to lose his job.
He's going to do what he needs to do to keep it.
While Bettman has been widely criticized—and rightfully so—that the lockout has dragged on should come as no surprise to anyone familiar with Donald Fehr's work as head of the MLBPA.
He loves to wait until the very last second to get a deal done—a point that wasn't lost on the Philadelphia Inquirer's Sam Carchidi (via Twitter):
That very last second is drawing closer, and with a drop-dead date, Fehr is going to roll up his sleeves and, like Bettman, do what needs to be done to work out a deal.
Neither side is truly interested in watching the entire season go down in flames.
With a drop-dead date finally in place, reaching a resolution—and not playing games—becomes the priority of both Bettman and Fehr for the first time in months.
The NHL will be saved.
An agreement will be reached, preventing the future of the NHL from dropping into the abyss of uncertainty.