NHL Lockout: What Will It Take for Both Sides to Get Serious?

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NHL Lockout: What Will It Take for Both Sides to Get Serious?
Rich Lam/Getty Images
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman

The NHL and the NHLPA haven't stopped negotiating since the lockout began almost a month ago, but minimal progress has been made in reaching a new collective bargaining agreement thus far, so what will it take for both sides to get serious?

Unfortunately for hockey fans, talks aren't likely to get serious until the entire season is being threatened by the lockout.

When there is an incentive for both sides to get a deal done to save themselves financially, the negotiations will move much faster. This probably won't happen until sometime after the New Year unless one side decides to make concessions during labor talks sooner than expected.

Even though there are talks scheduled for Tuesday, according to Sportsnet's John Shannon, the only thing at stake right now is the cancellation of more regular-season games.

The Winter Classic, the All-Star Game, and the entire season are not yet in real danger of being cancelled. However, these events will be at risk soon if there's no CBA in the next few weeks.

Both sides will say publicly that they want to get a deal done, but the lack of progress thus far indicates that neither party has taken the necessary steps to reach a new agreement.

The pace of the current labor negotiations will begin to pick up when the Winter Classic is part of the next bulk of games to be cancelled.

The league's top regular-season event isn't likely to be included in the next collection of games that could be lost, but its fate could be decided in the next few weeks (via TSN).

The players will want to save the Winter Classic, which could certainly result in more labor meetings between the two sides, but I don't think it's a game that will significantly impact what kind of proposal the NHLPA is willing to make.

As more games are cancelled, expect teams that own or run their arenas to rent them while the work stoppage continues. This will allow these franchises to make up for some of the revenue lost while NHL games are being missed.

This will help the owners' situation, and as a result, make them even less likely to cave on important issues first. Meanwhile, the longer into the winter that this lockout goes, the less money the players are going to make.

Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

The players' resolve will ultimately be tested by two things, their financial situations and desire to get back on the ice. The challenge for the NHLPA is to stick together long enough to the point where the owners also start feeling the pressure to make a deal.

The players understand that if they stay unified into January, they will have a much better chance to get a CBA that benefits them because they realize that the owners cannot afford to shut down the league for an entire year again.

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Until the season is in danger of being cancelled, which would result in a large amount of revenue being lost, don't expect the CBA talks to get serious.

The NHL and its players know that there is a deal to be made at any time, but since there is so much revenue at stake, both sides are letting their greed get in the way of doing what's best for the sport of hockey.

Expect the owners and players to play the waiting game for a few weeks and hope that the other side makes a concession or two that moves the negotiations forward. The bad news is that this waiting game could continue into 2013.

 

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.

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