The NHL lockout has reached a point where it seems the two sides are trying to create new ways to meet in an attempt to convince fans they are trying to reach an agreement. Tuesday's direct contact between owners and players is the latest gimmick.
Sean Gentille of the Sporting News reports the leaders of the respective sides, commissioner Gary Bettman for the owners and NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr for the players, will step aside. A group from each side will meet instead.
The players who will attend the meeting haven't been announced yet. The owners will send a group that includes Boston Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs. He's quickly gaining ground on Bettman as the most disliked figure on the owners' side.
It would be nice to have faith substantial progress could get made by placing the people most directly impacted by lockout in the same room. It's hard to imagine anything of note happening just because Bettman and Fehr aren't there, though.
Instead of coming to an agreement on the basic dynamics of a new deal, it appears the two sides are going to battle for every last detail and that obviously makes things tougher. Any hope that emerged when a full season was still possible has faded.
Now, as the league stares down its second lockout in the span of eight years, it's becoming increasingly frustrating for fans around North America. How could a league that was finally making strides with casual fans go through this mess again?
Questions like that are impossible to answer, at least for those on the outside. Furthermore, the sides are talking about a new CBA that only lasts for a handful of seasons. Are fringe fans going to get emotionally and financial invested when another lockout is already looming?
These are basic inquiries that should be driving both sides to get a deal done before another season gets cancelled. Alas, it appears the almighty dollar is drowning out the noise from fans who actually care, and they are becoming a rarer breed by the day.
Having the owners and players meet is a nice idea on paper, and it will look good in newspaper headlines, but it would be surprising if serious progress is made.
Maybe getting a chance to see how steadfast the owners are to get a favorable deal will cause the players to reconsider their position. But the odds are just as good it will make them more interested standing their own ground, adding to the distance between the sides.
Nobody knows exactly what will happen on Tuesday, but everybody can see the season slipping away. Again.
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