The NHL and NHLPA are still talking despite the fact that the next official collective bargaining session hasn't been scheduled, and even though that's not going to create a ton of hope among hockey fans who are starting to get really angry over the lockout, it is an encouraging sign.
Here's the latest update from Shelly Anderson of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:
No details, but heard that BIll Daly-Steve Fehr contact recently has been of substantial nature, even qualifying as light negotiations.— Shelly Anderson (@pgshelly) October 31, 2012
The two sides haven't met for a real bargaining session in over a week, and Fehr addressed this in an interview with the Minnesota Star-Tribune's Michael Russo:
Q: How upset are you that the owners have declined returning to the table at your request with no preconditions?A: It’s frustrating. I can’t make ‘em. Haven’t got a tank. What we have to do is get back to the table and figure out a way to bridge it … if they’re willing.
It wouldn't be surprising at all if NHLPA special counsel Steve Fehr and NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly are the ones that come up with the framework of a new agreement.
They have been talking throughout this process either on the phone, via e-mail or in a face-to-face meeting.
During the last lockout, it was Daly and Ted Saskin of the NHLPA who made significant progress toward getting a deal done, and we could see a similar outcome with Daly and Fehr in this work stoppage.
It might actually be better if league commissioner Gary Bettman and NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr were not the ones doing most of the work because both of these men are fierce negotiators.
With more games being lost and owners and players losing money while this stalemate continues, it's hard to imagine both sides not scheduling more talks in the near future.
The fate of the Winter Classic and the 2013 NHL All-Star Game could be decided this week or next week, so hopefully this creates a level of urgency on both sides to at least start negotiating again.
However, as long as Fehr and Daly keep talking, there will continue to be a small amount of hope that this lockout will end before the season is lost.
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.