The NHL announced the cancellation of all games through November 1st on Friday. Is this the final batch of cancellations? Right now, all signs point to no.
Sure, it's a PR war between the two sides right now, but if you listen to what both the owners and the players are telling us, negotiations don't seem to be going anywhere and we are no closer to a resolution and the resumption of play than were were on September 15, the day the owners locked the players out.
In the last week, there was a glimmer of hope: the owners made an offer which they touted as a 50-50 split of revenues. The players made three counter offers. The owners rejected all three out of hand. The entire meeting Thursday took all of one hour and no new talks were scheduled.
How far apart are we? Listen to the words of both sides:
"It's clear we're not speaking the same language. We were done in an hour because there was really nothing there." —NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman
"After the proposal was made, they did what they have done before: they take very few minutes, they don't think about it, they don't analyze it, they don't talk to the other owners, they take less than 10 minutes... all three proposals are rejected in their entirety. And secondly, the proposal that we recently got is their best offer." —NHLPA Executive Director Donald Fehr
"It is not a 50-50 deal. It is, most likely a 56- to 57-percent (for players) deal in Year One and never gets to 50 percent during the proposed five-year term of the agreement. The proposal contemplates paying the players approximately $650 million outside of the players' share. In effect, the union is proposing to change the accounting rules to be able to say '50-50,' when in reality it is not." —NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly
Right now, the two sides aren't really negotiating with each other. This still appears to be more of a PR war than a negotiation. It's about who can make the other side look responsible for extending the lockout until the other guys cave and we can get what we want—not than how can we solve the issues and get back to the business of playing hockey.
The owners recently hired a PR firm who conducted a focus group that examined the feelings of fans and why they were most mad at the owners. This most recent offer seemed designed to address the fact that most fans viewed the owners as "the bad guys," rather than actually addressing the issues the players and owners need to resolve.
So talks broke off yesterday and another eight days worth of games were canceled today. No new talks are scheduled. What does that mean? Well, the weekend will probably go by with nothing new happening on the negotiating front. The question is, how much longer will it be before the two sides even get back to the table and resume talks?
Even in a best case scenario, we are more than a week away from a settlement and right now things look very far from the best case if you watch the way both sides are behaving.
The commissioner said there was about a week before it would become impossible to play a full 82-game schedule and that the season would have to begin on November 3 to accomplish that goal. After this week, a full season is looking less and less likely.
So today, another day has passed with no talks taking place and no more planned and another week has been erased off the NHL schedule. Unless both sides change their tune and give a little instead of just taking, this lockout is nowhere near over.
If history is any indication, this will not be the final batch of games cancelled by this lockout. I hope I'm wrong, but hockey fans, it looks like both sides are digging in for the long haul.