NHL commissioner Gary Bettman's offer of a players-and-owners-only meeting that would not include him and NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr is a good idea, but would Bettman's removal from meetings really lead to the end of the lockout?
The work stoppage is now 78 days old, and many fans are surprised that we are in December and still don't have a good idea of when the 2012-13 season will start.
According to ESPN New York's Katie Strang, the union still hasn't made a decision on whether or not to accept the league's meeting.
#CBA NHL, NHLPA have been in touch regarding potential players/owners-only meeting but nothing finalized yet— Katie Strang (@KatieStrangESPN) December 2, 2012
One of the biggest obstacles in getting a new CBA done are the egos on both sides, and Bettman and Fehr represent the two largest egos at the negotiating table.
If both men are removed from the negotiating process, we might start to see some real progress made on the important economic and player contract issues.
Many of the players don't like Bettman, and that has been made clear throughout this lockout with their insults toward him on Twitter and through the media. The owners are also unhappy with Fehr, so there's no question that taking these two guys out of the process could result in more meaningful negotiations.
Deputy commissioner Bill Daly, as well as the four owners who regularly attend CBA talks (Boston's Jeremy Jacobs, Washington's Ted Leonsis, Minnesota's Craig Leipold and Calgary's Murray Edwards) are fully capable of making a deal with NHLPA special counsel Steve Fehr and the union's executive committee.
Bettman's presence in CBA meetings isn't needed to get a deal done, and several players have little respect for him, so his removal from the bargaining sessions cannot make the current situation any worse.
Taking Bettman out of the negotiations and allowing some new owners to get involved in the process, not just the "usual four," could be what these negotiations need right now.
Fehr and the NHLPA have allowed any of their members who want to attend meetings to do so whenever there's an opportunity, and it's time for the NHL to do the same.
If the union accepts Bettman's players-and-owners-only meeting, the league should allow any owner to participate if he wants to. Having the moderate owners join the hard-liners such as Jacobs could spark some progress because it's hard to imagine that there aren't any owners who want this lockout to end soon.
One of the best ways for the NHL to negotiate effectively with union would be to include all owners in all official negotiating meetings because just having the "hard-liners" at the bargaining table isn't going to help produce any real progress.
Since the owners are the ones leading the league in this lockout and not Bettman, the NHL doesn't need the commissioner in the negotiating room to work out a deal with the NHLPA.
The decision to remove Bettman from the bargaining process should be a no-brainer for the owners who are committed to saving the 2012-13 season.