Two days of talks between the NHL and the Players' Association failed to produce any traction, even with a federal mediator present.
Throughout the session, both sides spoke to each other through the mediator. These types of sessions can prove fruitful when the two parties both believe they are close to a settlement and there's a small bridge to cross.
However, there apparently was no movement on either side.
The NHL locked out players Sept. 15 and games have been canceled through Dec. 14. It seems that the two sides would need to reach an agreement no later than the first or second week in January for the NHL to conduct a viable season. The NHL might make a decision to pull the plug on the season prior to that point.
The NHL has also canceled the Winter Classic, scheduled to be played New Year's Day at Michigan Stadium between the Detroit Red Wings and the Toronto Maple Leafs, and it has also canceled the All-Star weekend.
Shortly after the mediated sessions broke off, Gary Bettman offered to let owners and players meet on their own (source: @DarrenDreger). No representatives from the league offices or the union would attend.
Union chief Donald Fehr has not responded to that offer.
Bettman presumably made such an offer because of the criticism and personal attacks he has received from players in recent weeks.
The union may choose to begin the decertification process as a tactic.
This seemed to unlock stalled talks between the NFL and the NFLPA in the summer of 2011, and it also did the same when the NBA locked out its players last year. In that dispute, the NBA and NBA Players' Association finally came to an agreement just as it looked as if the season was about to be canceled.
However, just because that tactic worked in those two lockouts does not mean it would work in the NHL. Bill Daly, the NHL's Deputy commissioner, said that tactic was a "time-consuming process that would likely lead to the end of the season." (source: SportsnetRadio.ca)
Time is starting to grow short, and both sides are running out of options. At one point or another, both sides are going to have to decide that saving the season is the top priority.
If that does not happen, the 2012-13 season will suffer the same fate as the 2004-05 season—it will be canceled.
The NHLPA believes it has moved miles to get to a 50-50 revenue split, while the NHL has moved inches, according to Steve Fehr of the NHLPA (source: NESN.com)
It seems the NHL wants to crush the NHLPA and get it to give in on all issues. That strategy may lead to a last-minute settlement or it could result in a lost season.