The NHL and the NHLPA will meet in a week's time on December 9th and 10th, to discuss a new proposal from the NHLPA. The player's union requested the meetings, which will be in Toronto.
So things are finally getting serious, right on schedule.
The spin in the media is that this is "new hope for NHL fans!" And they'd show old shots of goofy-looking hockey fans celebrating in a bar watching NHL hockey. It's the same old, "get your hopes up" kind of stuff. But the fact is that this doesn't represent "new hope" at all, because it was assumed all along that the NHLPA would request to meet, would present some new, bogus proposal that the NHL would reject. So the question now is, is this really some new proposal, and what will the NHL do?
From what I hear it's yet another modified luxury tax kind of thing, which is better than what they had before. But the conventional wisdom has been that the NHL wants a salary cap no matter what, and are prepared to kill the season in order to get it. And that this new proposal from the players is sure to be a glorified publicity stunt.
I have always been of the view that we would have no hockey through the month of December but I always had a question mark about whether or not both these sides would take the risk--- and it's a big risk--- of shutting down the sport for an entire season. Baseball, of course, has never heard the end of it for what happened in 1994. And I always wondered about the fortitude of both these sides when it came down to the crunch. I have always wondered if either side would capitulate under the pressure that is sure to come this month to get a deal done to save the season. You would THINK they would want to come to their senses and make a deal to play hockey. A lot is riding on next week's talks- the whole season, participation of NHL players in the 2006 Olympic games, and the rest of it. But there's been so much talk of "they'll be out for the season" that it almost seems like a self-fulfilling prophesy. Its almost as if it is assumed they'll be out for the season and that if a deal gets done it'll be a bonus. So I don't know if the pressure to get a deal done will be there or not!
Also expect a lot of yakking in the press about how these talks will be "make or break" for the season--- but the truth is that they don't absolutely have to get a deal done on the 9th or 10th. If the NHL comes back with a counteroffer, that's actually good news. It means the two sides are talking. And as long as they talk and talk, and keep holding meetings, then I'd definitely say you should "get your hopes up, fans" because they still have another week to come to their senses and get a deal done. So far, though, nothing's deviated from the doomsday cancel-the-season scenario that the doomsayers have been talking about. The NHLPA were going to make this proposal anyway. I'd also say that if the NHL storms out of those meetings in disgust next week and say that no new talks are scheduled, then you should really sound the alarm. Because both sides really do need to keep talking.