As of now, the NHL and the Player’s Association are still far apart on a new deal. With that said, there has been significant process in New York this week between the two sides. While most seem optimistic regarding where these week’s meetings might leading to, a lot of fans aren’t hesitating to maintain their “I’ll believe it when I see it” stand and considering how hopes were high on multiple occasions already only to have them dashed, you’d be hard-pressed to blame anyone for not feeling as gung ho about the current developments.


Of course, this week’s meeting involve a different approach. Out are NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and NHLPA leader Donald Fehr. In are six of the owners and 18 of the players. NHL deputy commissioner Billy Daly and the PA’s second-in-command Steve Fehr have been in attendance but merely as spectators.


While it seems like beating a dead horse to ask why the two sides couldn’t have resorted to this approach earlier, it does pose as an interesting question. Day 81 of the lockout has now come and gone and the two sides only thought of this within the last few days. I suppose we can give Commissioner Bettman the benefit of the doubt for initially suggesting said approach, not everyone will be inclined to give the man any credit.


The two sides have now wrapped up two days of very lengthy discussions where they have apparently made a lot of progress on a few issues (more specific details will be available in due time) but essentially everyone involved in the meetings are well-aware of the predicament they’re in and treating the current situation as if they are facing the eleventh hour. While on the surface there is enough time to salvage the 2012-13 season, the current situation is a case of now-or-never – and quite honestly, that’s the best way to go.


Some of the representatives from the players’ side include Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby and Chicago’s Jonathan Toews, two players who haven’t been shy with their feelings on the current lockout, in addition to veterans such as Tampa Bay’s Martin St. Louis and Phoenix’s Shane Doan as well as Anaheim’s George Parros and Los Angeles’ Kevin Westgarth who, in the risk of sounding bias, has been nothing short of phenomenal in not only working hard to crack a deal and putting on a brave face in spite of trying times but to keep a frustrated Kings’ fan base in the loop about what’s going on in terms of progress towards a new CBA.


From the owners side, you have Winnipeg’s Mark Chipman, Boston’s Jeremy Jacons and Pittsburgh’s Ron Birkle.


While I haven’t heard about much about the latter prior to this week, Birkle, known to be a private man who prefers to stay out of the spotlight, does have the reputation for being a dealmaker who, unlike someone like Donald Fehr, won’t let his ego get in the way and instead hammer out a deal for the betterment of the game. Having Birkle present likely also gives Crosby a great deal of comfort knowing that he can work with his employer directly to reach the collective goal.


I can’t quite say that I’m optimistic but by no means am I pessimistic. One of the owners who has been present at the meetings this week was minority owner of the Toronto Maple Leafs Larry Tannenbaum who, during the last lockout in 2004-05, had players over to his house in hopes of working out a new deal. Tannenbaum also let his feelings be heard following the cancelation of said season, expressing his disappointment that the two sides had to resort to such an unprecedented result.


We can say what we will about the owners and the players as well but I’m willing to give those involved in this week’s meetings the benefit of the doubt as far as genuinely wanting to salvage a season. You certainly can’t blame for trying especially given how the lockout has gone thus far.


If a deal is to be reached within the next few days, there are rumblings that the 2012-13 campaign will likely be of a 56-game length. Of course, it’s better to burn that bridge when we come to it. Right now, all we can do is wait and see what comes of the remainder of these meetings but I’m willing to believe that these will keep going until something substantial is reached.


While we haven’t had much incentive to feel this way thus far, we can only hope at this point.




Photo: Courtesy of Mary Altaffer/AP