Optimism seems to be the watchword at this instant.
No Bettman plus no Donald Fehr equals progress.
The Dec. 4 meeting between players and owners did not turn into a free-for-all. Apparently, real progress has been made (source: CBSSports.com).
It's about time.
But it's not good enough. It's time to make a deal and get back to playing hockey. Until that happens, it's really just so much palaver.
Until the last two days, it seemed the only thing the NHL and the NHL Players' Association cared about was making its stand and showing the other side that it would not be pushed around.
Whatever had passed for negotiations was nothing but ego and brinksmanship.
If both sides had cared about hockey and playing a regular season, they would have retired to a comfortable room, ordered pizzas and soda and talked it out reasonably. That would have occurred in August or September, perhaps early October at the latest.
The negotiators did not seem to care about NHL hockey, despite their protestations.
The fans care about hockey. They care about going to games. They care about watching games on television and listening on the radio. They care about the NHL standings, winning streaks, losing streaks and playoff positioning.
However, based on the way the keepers of the game have behaved, the fans probably shouldn't care.
In addition to not caring about their sport, the owners and players are taking the paying customers for granted. They may say otherwise, but they don't care a whit about you.
Based on past labor issues, lockouts in the 1994-95 season and the fully locked-out 2004-05 season, fans already knew that.
Fans may have let those memories fade since that lost season, but those feelings have come back to life. The fact that the owners and players care only about themselves and nothing about the fans has been driven home fully.
So fans know their feelings are not returned, but it's impossible to turn off their own emotions.
Like unrequited love for a woman who can't or won't return your feelings, it's impossible to turn off.
In some ways, the more she doesn't care about you, the more you love her.
It's not the exact same thing with the game of hockey, but it's pretty similar.
Should the fans care?
But will they ever stop caring despite all the abuse?
Hockey's pull is just too strong.