In the NHL and NHLPA's chess game of scathing press releases and sleazy fan manipulation, the pawns have fallen into one position, and one position only.
As TSN's Bob McKenzie reported eight days ago after the owners' latest proposal was offered, league commissioner Gary Bettman had claimed that Oct. 25 would serve as the deadline for an agreement to preserve an 82-game season in 2012-13.
Now we have a deadline. If deal is reached, training camp would open Oct. 26. New CBA needs to done by Oct. 25 to save 82-game season.— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) October 16, 2012
After the situation seemed verging on a breakthrough last week, negotiations have fizzled and Thursday's deadline has arrived without much of a glance from either side.
Chris Johnston of the Canadian Press reported that the NHLPA has inquired about a meeting, but Bettman & Co. have, so far, shown no interest in doing so. Per NHLPA counsel Steve Fehr via @ReporterChris:
Steve Fehr: "The league is apparently unwilling to meet. That is unfortunate as it is hard to make progress without talking."— Chris Johnston (@reporterchris) October 24, 2012
While the owners' steadfast stubbornness continues to infuriate fans, the NHL likely hopes to drive in the point that their latest offer is a far more reasonable proposition than the three "agreements" offered by the Players Association last week.
How many games will the NHL play in 2012-13?
In keeping with that theme, Bettman announced to the press on Wednesday that a full, 82-game season is now, realistically, "unrealistic." Per Bettman via the Associated Press:
"The fact of the matter is there are just some times that you need to take time off because it's clear that you can't do anything to move the process forward."
"There seems to be no interest in making any sort of deal along the lines of what we have expressed a desire and a need for. Sometimes in collective bargaining you have to take a deep breath before you can move forward."
"Unfortunately, it looks like an 82-game season is not going to be a reality."
Meanwhile, the lockout continues to alienate a plethora of hockey followers, from players to fans to politicians. A sizable river of NHL-ers are pouring into European and Russian leagues by the day, while millions of North American hockey supporters try to influence a decision that would bring them back.
"Every time these things happen, I just want to remind the owners and the players, you guys make money because you've got a whole bunch of fans out there," said U.S. President Barack Obama to Jay Leno on Wednesday night. "Y'all should be able to figure this out."
The lack of activity on the negotiating front could soon summon the firing squad to remove a large portion of the November schedule. Games have already been cancelled through Nov. 1, but the next cancellation could take out a three-week chunk up until Thanksgiving on Nov. 22.
For the moment, the knights remain motionless and the kings immovable on the NHL and NHLPA's chess board of negotiations.
Mark Jones has been a Bleacher Report featured columnist since 2009. He has written more than 430 articles and received more than 725,000 reads.