After "marathon" meetings Tuesday, the Fehr- and Bettman-less NHL owners and players groups agreed to meet Wednesday morning to continue negotiations.
Scratch that. They decided to push new meetings back until the afternoon, after the NHL Board of Governors meetings had concluded.
Not surprisingly, owner-friendly former Columbus GM Doug MacLean -- who is like the Mike Milbury of Blue Jackets franchise history -- took that delay to mean the players had screwed up or something:
MacLean vented on Sportsnet's Hockey Central, as transcribed at Cult of Hockey:
"When you finish at 12:30 last night, and we’ve been locked out for 80 days, can you not stay up for another hour and half and work on a proposal and pass it in at 9 (a.m.) like you said you were going to do. Is that that complicated?"
This courageous desire to make key decisions on three hours of sleep may explain much of MacLean's tenure in Columbus.
(Seriously, especially for you college kids nearing finals and end-of-semester pressure and decisions, like whether to extend your girlfriend through the holiday break: Don't make big decisions on little sleep. Just don't do it. Financial, emotional, professional -- whatever it is, there's a reason "sleep on it" is a phrase in many languages.)
Anyway, there are all kinds of rumors floating around about imminent progress and the commissioner "wanting a deal by Friday" (which is both comical and tragic in one fell stomach punch, given the months of posturing that made October and November disappear). There were also solid reports from solid reporters stuck with the merciless task of squeezing thoughts from pissed off sources.
You can read these upticks in rumors as signs of progress, or as signs of the normal flow of a lockout (yes, lockouts are now "normal") as it approaches the time where clearly the league must stop posturing if it has sincere interest in holding a 2012-13 season. Alright, fine, you can also read them both ways simultaneously.
At any rate, meetings shall resume, and may well get uncomfortable:
#CBA Unclear whether a formal proposal is forthcoming but talks expected to be more specific than Tues, which was more conceptual in nature— Katie Strang (@KatieStrangESPN) December 5, 2012
Players shall practice harder, embracing optimism. (Aside: Erik Johnson is optimistic about talks, so he goes down to block a shot in pick-up? That method is ... unsound.)
Bettman shall Respect The Process, and spare us the posturing. Today at least:
Bettman: pleased with process that is ongoing, out of respect for that, will not take questions— Elliotte Friedman (@FriedgeHNIC) December 5, 2012
And in a truly interesting note, the BOG wasn't even given specifics on the status of talks, lest they squash them because that's what owners do:
Negotiations between NHL-NHLPA are at such sensitive stage NHL govs weren't even given specifics from yesterday's session at today's BofG.— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) December 5, 2012
Meanwhile, if you want to get truly ahead of yourself and fill your January-April plans with many four-games-per-week weeks, there was this:
Talk of 50/56 game sked "if" a deal— Tim Panaccio (@tpanotchCSN) December 5, 2012
What a sham, if they can't even play a 60-game season.
But whatever. We figure our readers have lockout fatigue, which is why we've let up considerably on lockout coverage the last month or so. (Not that there's been much of anything to relay.) Alas, now we're approaching the ritual climax, so expect a few more updates in this stream and in the coming weeks -- though we don't intend to ruin our holidays chasing lockout standoff reports.
The season will probably happen some time, in some bastardized form. If you're interested in the hourly turns of how they get there, stay tuned. Otherwise, Bridgeport plays tonight.