Continuing the steady progression of cancellations, the NHL officially cancelled the rest of the 2012 preseason on Thursday evening. NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said, (via the Associated Press):
I'll reserve judgment on my sense of optimism or not until we see how our meetings unfold. Ultimately, we have to meet and talk to make a deal. But until we make progress and see some compromise from the Union of their economic position, we won't be going anywhere fast.
The players and the owners do not appear to be ready to negotiate in any real sense. They are sticking to basic posturing and stubbornness for the moment. Daly commented:
I think it's fair to say we feel like we need to hear from the players' association in a meaningful way because I don't think that they've really moved off their initial proposal, which was made more than a month ago now.
The scary part of the situation is that both sides—players and owners—seem to be relatively content to see games and possibly even the season get canceled. Washington Capitals star player Alex Ovechkin claims to be willing to play the year out elsewhere:
If the league continues to insist on their [demands], then it will take a full year. That's because we are not going to cave in. Then I will spend the entire season in the KHL. That's an absolute reality.
The owners are equally willing to sit it out. According to Forbes, only three NHL teams are reporting any significant profits.
Will there be an NHL season this year?
Discussions should be happening in the coming days, which could be interpreted as cause for optimism. NHLPA special counsel Steve Fehr expressed a small amount of optimism, saying, "We are pleased the league is willing to come back to the bargaining table, and we look forward to Friday's discussions."
Ultimately, one side will need to get desperate before we are likely to see an end to the lockout. We saw with the NFL referee lockout that it took multiple national controversies to get real compromise to happen. If the two sides approach the discussion on Friday with complete stubbornness—which they likely will—then the discussion will have no impact beyond public relations.