It wasn't the "cautious optimism" but the sight of number-two's Steve Fehr and Bill Daly standing next to each other, issuing a joint "best day we've had" update, that made me ever so slightly ease my doubts that the Bettman- and Fehr-less player-owners meetings might yield something meaningful.
I remain a skeptic about the effect of the meeting itself. I remain a believer that the NHL is waiting until it's decided it's had enough of not playing hockey before it ends the lockout that it alone initiated and it alone can end.
But dialogue Tuesday that went for hours, spanned both sides of dinner, and ended in a joint respectful statement rather than a cascade of leaks and disingenuous spin? Well that's something, at least.
Wednesday's next steps include a morning meeting from the same group of owners and players, followed by the NHL Board of Governors meetings.
If the players needed Tuesday to hear a bunch of owners are supportive of Bettman's handling of the lockout, Bettman and the gang might need the BOG meeting to gather that some owners are ready to take what they've gained rather than cancel the season.
Coverage of interest, if you dare:
- Video: The TSN panel susses out what Tuesday's lengthy meetings mean.
Sean Gentille on the phrase of Tuesday evening, "cautious optimism"
- The Pittsburgh story that ignited the Penguins-as-savior meme
- ESPN echoes the indications Pens owner Ron Burkle helped facilitate dialogue.
In one sense, the respectful tone from both sides is nice to see. (However, note that neither Donald Fehr or Gary Bettman were involved or quoted.) In another sense, we've seen such decent vibes in the past ... right before talks broke down in a stew of spin and rhetoric.
This thing will end when they're good and ready. The calendar tells us that moment is getting nearer, simply by necessity. But expect more nauseating drama between now and then.