NHL Lockout 2012: Why Tuesday's Labor Talks Are Critical to Striking Agreement

Tyler Conway@jtylerconwayFeatured ColumnistOctober 16, 2012

NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 13:  Commissioner Gary Bettman of the National Hockey League speaks to the media at Crowne Plaza Times Square on September 13, 2012 in New York City.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

As time continues to tick in the ongoing, frustrating debacle that is the 2012 NHL lockout, each meeting between the two sides carries exponentially higher stakes going forward. 

That's why when the league's owners and NHLPA meet on Tuesday for the first time since Oct. 11, the two sides can create momentum that can spark an agreement going forward.

At some point, even the most straight-out-of-a-fairytale optimist realized that losing games was an inevitability. When you have two sides led by such unbelievably stubborn men, there is little reason for true urgency until the situation calls for it. 

With two weeks of the season already canceled and likely more of those missed games almost assuredly coming, the time for urgency is now. 

For those looking for positives, we saw this wait-until-the-last-minute negotiation style twice in 2011 with the NBA and the NFL. 

In the NFL, the desperation came from two completely separate areas: fan disgust and an ungodly amount of revenue hanging in the balance. When you have a business that is soaring in terms of popularity and has a goal of making $25 billion in revenue by 2027, there tends to be a little urgency.

Nonetheless, everyone in the sports world acknowledges that the NFL does not play on a similar playing field as other leagues. It's almost like comparing McDonald's to Hardee's or Apple to Zune (OK, maybe that's a little extreme, but you get the point). 

The NBA, on the other hand, is a far better parallel for the NHL to work from. At this time last season, the talks between David Stern, the owners, NBAPA director Billy Hunter and player representatives looked equally bleak. 

Locked in a stalemate over contract rollbacks, how to split revenue and luxury tax/salary cap figures (sound familiar, hockey fans?), the split between the owners and NBAPA looked even uglier than that in 1998-1999 for a period. 

In fact, a Google search of "will NBA cancel season" brings 24.4 million search results. For reference, a search of my name and Bleacher Report brings a paltry 81,600 results (apparently people don't care about me as much as the NBA). 

However, it's pretty apparent that sides in the NHL labor dispute are farther apart than perhaps any two sides since, well, the 2004-05 NHL lockout. 

Type in that same search, substituting NHL for NBA and you will receive 216 million search hits—nearly 10 times that of the NBA and six times a similar search for the NFL.

Say what you will about Google's reliability, but search results don't lie: people are horrified about losing another NHL season. 

That's why these talks are so crucial. There is absolutely no chance that these two sides walk out of Tuesday's talks arm-in-arm touting a new agreement. The sides are simply too far apart and neither has reached the level of urgency necessary to hammer out a new deal. 

However, it's imperative that NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr come out of the meetings hopeful, having found an amenable middle ground on some small item that paves the way for more expansive negotiations. 

Without that glimmer of hope, we could be looking at a cold, hockey-less winter filled with a lot of time pounding on the keyboard in our Google search bar.