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Thursday, 20 December 2012

Is The Lockout Just a Joke For the NHL?

Throughout this entire lockout there has been speculation that the NHL had a secret date in their heads as to when this lockout will end and when they will work out a new CBA. It's becoming more and more apparent that the NHL does indeed have a drop dead date and is sticking to it. In a earlier post I hinted at the fact the NHL had a date in mind and wouldn't negotiate before then, only problem I thought that date was in December. That date according to Bill Daly is sometime in mid-January;
"It is fair to say it is sometime in mid-January," ~ Bill Daly on Sportsnet 590

Daly also went on to say that commissioner Gary Bettman would not ice a season with fewer that 48 games for the "integrity of the game". So that gives the NHL and NHLPA roughly 3 weeks to hammer out a new CBA, not a ton of time but if the NHL is serious about having a deal done my mid-January it's possible. The earliest fans would see NHL hockey is January 15th as the NHL has now cancelled all games up until that point, not a lot of room for optimism.

After Daly's appearance on the Fan 590, he decided he wasn't done talking and joined Hockey Night in Canada radio and gave a surprising answer when asked if fans will get to see a NHL season;
"Yes!" ~ Bill Daly

Daly was a very busy man on Wednesday, declaring that there is a "drop dead date" (which everyone kind of knew) and that there will be an NHL season, the question then becomes what season? People don't like Bettman as a result Daly being his "right hand man" takes a lot of flack in the public and the media, but no matter which way you look at it those are 2 very strong messages sent directly from the league.

Everyone knows that at some point you have to cancel the entire season, somewhere, in someones head there's a point of no return, it's the only logical option in a negotiation like this. Have Bettman and the owners always known about the date and wanted to delay to the last possible second? It's possible. But at the same time Donald Fehr and the players also know there is a magical date, heck they've even come out and mention that there is a magical date in interviews. The NHLPA much like the NHL knows exactly how much they can ask for and for how long. Up until now the two sides have been throwing lobs at each other to see if the other side will hit one and get some traction, they know that what they're currently offering isn't going to be hit but they're trying to see what else they can get thrown into the deal.

If the NHL truly wants to get a deal done and in place for January 15th (drop dead date) look for them to throw the NHLPA a pitch right down the middle thatthey just can't refuse. The reason the two sides are waiting till the very last possible minute is because thats when the best deal will be made. When their backs are up against the wall they begin to panic, each side will be willing to throw something extra into the pot to make a deal because they know they don't have much time left to negotiate. A deal accepted in January is likely to be much better than any deal accepted in November. Right now it's the bottom of the 9th with 2 outs in a tie game, can one team get the hit it takes to crack this thing open?

Now let's talk about Daly saying "yes" to an NHL season. Before you start jumping up and down and

planning your next trip to the arena, let's take a step back. Maybe Daly is right, the NHL really isn't willing to cancel the season and there will be a deal

completed allowing hockey to resume for this season,

if so thats fantastic. But there's a few more reasons he said yes during the interview. First off, he was given an ultimatum and wasn't allowed to give a answer other than yes or no, obviously he's not going to say no and crush the fading hope of the fans. The NHL wants the fans to believe it's Fehr's fault there is no

season, so they're obviously not going to roll over and dig their own grave. The second reason he said yes is to help the NHL's case in the PR battle. By saying yes it opens the doors and provides evidence that the NHL is fully committed to getting a deal done and dropping the puck on an NHL season. It paints the allusion that they were fully committed to getting a deal done and playing hockey and in case that doesn't happen their butts are covered now. Which paints them a better picture for the fans. As I said It's all about the PR battle.

Now it's fully possible that there are owners who are telling Bettman they are unwilling to lose an entire season to these silly childish ploys because they simply can't survive. If the owners are truly getting upset with Bettman like what has been rumoured then one would have to think the plan all along was not to cancel the entire season, Bettman may be run out of town if that happens.

Virtually we are no closer to seeing NHL hockey back. Right now the best only option is a season that begins on January 15th and would see each team play 49 games. If that does indeed happen, look for more significance on divisional and conference play as there simply wont be enough time for long road trips. The next few weeks will be crucial to deciding the fate of the NHL. The only thing we know for sure is in order to see hockey the two sides must resume talking.

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