Expect more regular season games to be cancelled over the next several weeks as the NHL and its players continue their stalemate while waiting for the opposing side's resolve to weaken.
Despite losing the first two weeks of the season last week, the negotiations are still moving at a turtle's pace. The threat of losing these games for good doesn't seem to have given neither the owners nor the players any more incentive to make a deal now than before the lockout begun last month, so there's no reason to believe a collective bargaining agreement will be made anytime soon.
Players' association leader Donald Fehr released a statement via the NHLPA's Facebook page on Thursday, which ended with the following sentence: "We hope we will soon have a willing negotiating partner.”
NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly had a similar message just two days prior (via Chris Botta of the Sports Business Journal).
Bill Daly on NHLPA: "Unless they show some willingness to compromise, I don't know how we get this done."— Chris Botta (@ChrisBottaNHL) October 2, 2012
With both sides blaming the other for not wanting to compromise, this process could easily take quite some time to come to a conclusion.
There's little chance that we see a season that includes 82 regular season games, or one that starts before American Thanksgiving.
The owners will push the players far into the winter in the hope that the NHLPA cracks and starts making concessions on key issues. The shortened season in 1994-95 started on January 20 and the 2012-13 season could start around that time too.
Deputy commissioner Bill Daly recently said (via Chris Johnston of the Canadian Press) that the NHL has already suffered massive revenue losses because of game cancellations.
For the first time, the NHL has quantified its losses during the lockout. Bill Daly says pre-season losses cost almost $100 million.— Chris Johnston (@reporterchris) October 2, 2012
At the same time, the amount of expenses that the owners usually deal with around this time have also significantly gone down because players aren't being paid, and many stadium and team employees have been laid off or forced to take a paycut.
The NHL is going to continue to cancel games until each side shows an interest in discussing the core economic issues. This week's labor meetings won't include talks on these issues, according to Sam Carchidi of The Philadelphia Inquirer.
NHL and NHLPA will meet Wed. in NY. Major economic issues not on agenda. For now.— Sam Carchidi (@BroadStBull) October 8, 2012
Neither side is under too much pressure right now to make concessions, so there's little reason to believe that the league won't make anymore game cancellations in the near future.
Very rarely do you see owners or players make concessions during labor negotiations in October because doing so shows weakness, which is a bad situation for the side making concessions.
Expect more cancellations of regular season games over the next four to six weeks unless the NHL and its players sit down for multiple meetings in which the major issues that will determine the fate of the 2012-13 season are discussed.
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.