In the likely event that the NHL and NHLPA fail to craft a new CBA by September 15 and the owners stay true to their word and lock out the players, could Black Friday be the start date for a shortened 2012-13 season?
There might be a chance, according to ESPN Boston's Jimmy Murphy, who sources a couple of NHL players who told him about the possibility of the day after Thanksgiving serving as the season opener.
Just spoke to three NHL players and growing feeling that NHL has 'Black Friday' game between BOS/NYR 11/23 "circled" as first game.— Jimmy Murphy (@MurphysLaw74) September 4, 2012
Black Friday is the day that NBC will broadcast its first nationally televised game, which features an incredible battle between the New York Rangers and Boston Bruins.
Would there be a better way to start the season than having two rivals in major American hockey markets square off to begin the season?
Aside from a few potential college football games that could be important, there won't be much competition for the NHL that afternoon. The NFL does not have any games, and the NBA games for that day don't start until 7:00 p.m. ET.
Even though the NHL would still receive money from NBC (via Allan Walsh of player representation agency Octagon Hockey) if there's no season, it would be best for both parties if the season-opening game was shown to a holiday audience.
If lockout wipes out 2012-13 NHL season, NBC makes $200M payment to league and extra year is added onto deal for no rights fee.— Allan Walsh (@walsha) August 22, 2012
With a lot of people likely to be sitting on their couch, enjoying spending time with family and recovering from Thanksgiving meals, the NHL would give plenty of sports fans tons of excitement on Black Friday with a matchup of two physical teams.
Another reason why the NHL needs to start before December is because HBO will need time to prepare, and film, the 24/7 episodes as the 2013 Winter Classic draws close.
Since this year's installment of the Winter Classic features two of the league's biggest franchises, the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs, this is an HBO series that the NHL cannot afford to have shortened, or lost entirely.
For a league that is reportedly losing a ton of money (via Renaud Lavoie of RDS), starting the season any later than Black Friday could risk losing the major cash cow that is the Winter Classic. From a financial standpoint, that would be horrible for the NHL.
League source indicated to me that the NHL as a whole is losing a significant amount of money.— Renaud P Lavoie (@RenLavoieRDS) September 4, 2012
Another one said close to 240 million lost total, in the last 2 seasons.— Renaud P Lavoie (@RenLavoieRDS) September 4, 2012
Even if the owners and/or the players haven't circled November 23 as a date the season could begin, both sides would be smart to finalize a deal so the new season can commence around that time.
There's no reason why both the owners and players can't construct a new CBA by November.
Nicholas Goss is an NHL lead writer at Bleacher Report. He was also the organization's on-site reporter for the 2011 Stanley Cup Final in Boston. Follow him on Twitter.