With the recent cancellation of games through the end of 2012 (December 30) and talks of decertification ramping up, it is clear that the game we love wont be back anytime soon. The sad thing is the two sides are extremely close to a new CBA, but neither side wants to admit it for fear of defeat. In all honesty its sad and pathetic that the lockout has lasted this long and the only reason it has, is because both Gary Bettman and Donald Fehr are intertwined in the PR battle.
It's gotten to the point where Fehr is quicker to jump up on the podium and point the finger than too actually sit down with the players and actually hammer out a deal. For some strange reason the NHLPA believes they must win the PR and maintain their image with the fans, as the good guys. But what they fail to realize is that the fans don't care whose fault this mess is, they just want a solution. At this point the PR battle doesn't matter, fans are upset at both sides. All the posturing done by the NHLPA is for not if the 2012-2013 season is lost, fans will be just as upset at the players as they are with the owners because this lockout was preventable.
Another thing the NHLPA needs to keep in mind is the majority of hockey fans don't like Bettman as it is, they don't need anymore convincing. Telling the fans how stupid Bettman is and pointing the blame isn't going to help win the fans over, they already don't think highly of the man you're not telling them anything they don't already know.
Lets go back to the meetings last week when Bettman brilliantly suggested the owners, players and GM's meet without Bettman and Fehr in the room. Now of course this was a PR stunt by the league commissioner but it worked! The players were extremely happy to finally be allowed to talk and there was a real sense of optimism about getting a deal done. Then for whatever reason Fehr, ill advised, decided he wanted back in the meetings which sent things in a downward spiral. Bettman left the NHLPA a voicemail that I imagine went something like this: "The deal was we stay out of the room! I held up my end of the deal but you couldn't stay away. You broke deal, we're done talking!" Which then in turn led to Fehr and the NHLPA holding a press conference to whine to the media about the voicemail left by the NHL. Fehr running to the media made Bettman furious who then called his own press conference. By the time two had cooled off all the progress had been lost.
It's understandable that the NHLPA was upset over the way the meetings were handled by their opposition, but it was their own doing. Yes Fehr had every right to want back in the meetings, but thats not what was agreed upon. The owners and GMs were only asked to talk with the players not Fehr, Bettman stayed out of the room his counterpart should have as well. At some point the NHLPA have to realize crying to the media isn't going to get them anywhere. All it does is frustrate Bettman and annoy the fans. It's turned into the boy who cried wolf situation and last week may have been the last straw for the NHLPA. If the entire season is lost one can relate the sinking point to Fehr's press conference last Thursday, I have never seen Bettman so upset or agitated over these discussions. It's time for the NHLPA to grow up and act like the professionals they are no more whining or the season will be lost, period.
The best thing to happen is whats happening right now, silence. The two sides are meeting with mediators but not letting any information slip to the public. The only chance we have at seeing a season is if we hear very little during the next few weeks.
The good news for fans is that as big as Fehr and Bettman's ego's are it's not worth losing the entire season over. One of them and I expect it to be Bettman, honestly because he's been the less talkative of the two, will decide enough is enough and leave his ego at the door and tune the media out. The only way this lockout ends is if they give up the PR battle and the media is told nothing.