It’s nice to be wrong

An NHL lockout is a cynical business, with two extremely rich parties fighting for a wicked pile of cash. The most recent edition has been particularly galling, with two sides seemingly able to agree on a myriad of issues but unwilling to bridge the small gap between them.

Given that, naturally I was cynical about the December 4 meeting between players and owners – without the presence of league commissioner Gary Bettman or NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr. I thought it likely to be an empty ploy without hope of succeeding. And to be clear: it hasn’t succeeded yet. But for the first time in quite a while, things are looking up.

The meeting started around 2:00 PM Eastern. It ran through the afternoon, and into the evening. The two sides separated for dinner, and then met some more. Finally, just after midnight, the meeting wrapped up and some of the participants came out to talk to the media. Bill Daly represented the league; Steve Fehr the union.

Then something strange happened. They addressed the assembled throngs together. Lots of reporters tweeted the quotes; here they are as passed along by the Los Angeles Times’ Helene Elliott:

Steve Fehr: “It may have been the best day we’ve had so far. I don’t want to paint too rosy of a picture, however. A lot of work remains to be done.”

Bill Daly: “I want to thank the players and owners for being there and we’re going to work hard and try to get a deal."

It isn’t a lot, really. Steve Fehr talks about the amount of work left to be done. Bill Daly says they’re going to work hard. And given that the league and NHLPA seemed to be on a roll with a series of meetings previously, it’s important not to get too carried away: the lockout is not over, and a resolution does not appear imminent.

With that said, both sides seem positive. People like John Shannon with Sportsnet reported during a break that the owners’ side was optimistic. Larry Brooks of the New York Post and Aaron Ward of TSN, both tightly connected with the players’ side reported much the same from the union.

There are lots of ways to look at what happened in New York on Tuesday. Maybe removing the chief combatants and letting the rank and file go at the issues broke the deadlock. Maybe the league planned to push the union as far as they could and then get conciliatory as soon as the season was in real danger – Gary Bettman arranged this meeting after all. Maybe this is yet another soap bubble that will collapse on itself once it comes time to calculate dollars and cents.

But one thing is clear: this meeting was not a waste of time. And it might even be the beginning of the end.

Recently by Jonathan Willis

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  • watkinator

    I’ve held my breath for so long I’ve passed out too many times during this lockout already. But… is it coincidence that that report came out from Boston and now this? Somebody slap me I’m starting to hope again.

  • watkinator

    Cautiously optimistic here. I can’t wait for the season to start … So I can not spend a single penny of my hard earned money on the NHL. My kids have better Christmas gifts this year, my wife too (makes us both happy). So have fun playing … Minus one fan.

  • Muji

    It’s like babysitting 2 kids. The kids have been fighting all day; they broke your favorite coffee mug, jammed a piece of toast into your PS3, and had a food fight in the kitchen that you just cleaned yesterday. You have a huge headache. But they’ve finally tired themselves out and have been quietly watching Sesame Street together for the last 8 minutes.

    • watkinator

      Thats sucks dude, but try being a die hard hockey fan living in Australia. I’m trying to fill the void with test cricket. Damn South African team are the Canucks of cricket with all their ginger players and inability to win the big one…..

  • beloch

    I was previously of the opinion that Don and Gary should be locked in a meeting room until an agreement is hammered out.

    I was wrong.

    Now I think Don and Gary should be locked out of the meeting room until an agreement is hammered out.

  • vetinari

    It’s too early to say “game on”, but all the signs are pointing in the right direction. If a deal somehow emerges within the next 7-10 days, I think that the NHL and the NHLPA really have to take a long, hard and serious look at the leadership of both Bettman and Fehr #1 through all of this.

    Both of them have tremedous egos that likely got in the way of objective reasoning and when necessary, the spirit of compromise to gain other concessions for the greater good of the parties. Neither side can hold their head high when they collectively decided to fight over $200M-$300M or so by foregoing about a half season of revenue (what’s that, about $1.2B to $1.5B at this point?). This CBA will have to be for at least 6-8 years in length to make up for the lost revenue– what’s the business sense in that?

  • DSF

    It is NOT the beginning to the end rather the end of the beginning. Confused yet?

    When the talk of salary roll backs starts to occur with the ” make whole ” provision, the player will scream ” bloody murder”, and run out of the room. Make whole was based on 80 plus games and these numbers will be drastically reduced based on a 60 game scheduled.

    I can just see it Sidney Crosby with his high school education stating, ” hey no one said anything about changing the make whole provision numbers”.

    Nothing will change when you get a bunch of over privileged, high school educated brats, who have never spent one day of their life in the real world.

    • The Mook

      Lets see:Ryan Miller, graduate, Michigan State University, business major;Jamal Mayers, graduate,Western Michigan University, BA in marketing;Shawn Horcoff, graduate Michigan State University, degree in mathematics and finance;David Backes, academic all American at Minnesota state, pursuing degrees in electrical engineering and organizational management; Mathieu Darche, business degree McGill university, CIS outstanding student athlete;Kevin Westgarth, graduate, Princeton University, BA Psychology;George Parros, graduate Princeton University, economics major.All those guys were in the room with the owners, and seem to be holding their own in negotiations. By the way, in case you don’t know, a University is a place you go to after high school. When you get through high school yourself, you might want to give it try. Although I imagine the three best years of your life were grade 9.

  • canuck31003

    Wouldn’t surprise me if owners try to get deal done without Fehr in room to make it more likely he’s let go after this is all over. Bettman’s job is secure, so no skin off his nose if it looks like his absence leads to deal.

    Besides, Bettman will have another go in 5-6 yrs or whenever this next CBA expires. .

  • vetinari

    Is it me, or is all this lockout talk and back and forth banter getting boring? Im a diehard Oilers fan and even I am not interested anymore. “fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice,shame on me, fool me thrice, go to hell”.

  • The Mook

    My point isn’t that NHL players are better educated than owners. Of course they’re not. But they aren’t stupid either. The reason they aren’t accepting the owners offer isn’t, as RamaLama implies, because they aren’t educated enough.Its because they are smart enough to figure out its a bad offer.And you lose your bet. Ron Burkle (Pittsburgh co-owner) is a college dropout. And Mario Lemieux(Pittsburgh co-owner) never finished high school.

  • The Mook

    I’ll start off by saying, I love the site! I was a follower of coppernblue, and the link Zona posted led me here.

    Now let me follow that up by saying, daaaaammmmmnnnn, @Dougtheslug owned @The Mook and @Rama Lama. I love seeing a good debate, but this was as one sided as it gets! I’m not trying to be mean, props should go where they are deserved! Well done!