After canceling a meeting last week to regroup with their respective factions, the reps for the NHL owners and NHLPA pick things up again with meetings today in New York and an agreement on "procedure" for the next step. The prevailing view from the outside is pessimistic, being that the two are on opposite sides of a "meaningful gulf."
But is it time to panic?
So many signs point that way, but at least in theory we're not there yet: Each side has only submitted one real proposal -- so naturally those proposals will be of an "extreme" nature, as they represent starting points from which to negotiate.
The problem, of course, is that those proposals are so different, and in fact the PA proposal was not so much a response to the first owners' volley as its own separate view of the economic structure of the game.
The owners are expected to issue another proposal today. If that one is just as far away, it could be a long wait for hockey fans, with both sides playing hard ball. If there is something to work with there -- if there is anything to work with after this upcoming week of meetings, then maybe there's reason for hope.
But the owners have the hammer, since they appear willing to lock out the players (unless that statement, too, is just a negotiating tactic), while the players would happily play under existing conditions and see "nothing magical" about Sept. 15, when the existing CBA expires.
When you know your partner wants action more than you do, in the parlance of yesteryear's times, you have hand. If the owners make no real gestures to move the needle this week, we'll know they intend to use it.
When is a Lockout Imminent?
Granted this is Donald Fehr's PR outreach for the NHLPA, but in the embedded presser below (beginning at 3:00 mark of the video) he does a good, faithful job of explaining the if and why we'll have a lockout, if indeed we'll have a lockout: Because the owners want one.
At the very least, the PA is doing a good job painting itself as the "good guy" this time around, for whatever that's worth.
Suffice to say, if the above remains the tone coming out of this week of meetings -- that the owners want a lockout as a tactic for leverage -- then your October calendar just opened up.