NHL commissioner Gary Bettman briefly spoke to the media on Wednesday afternoon in New York City after the league's Board of Governors meeting, and he seemed optimistic about the current labor negotiations with the NHLPA (via Dan Rosen of NHL.com):
Bettman: "We are pleased with the process that is ongoing and out of respect for that process I don't have anything else to say."— Dan Rosen (@drosennhl) December 5, 2012
Kypreos (@RealKyper) December 5, 2012
Bargaining slated to resume around 215 pm ET or so... Same group dynamic as yesterday. So no D Fehr or G Bettman— Pierre LeBrun (@Real_ESPNLeBrun) December 5, 2012
Sam Carchidi of the Philadelphia Inquirer also reported some encouraging information regarding the owners' plans for this week:
Carchidi (@BroadStBull) December 5, 2012
The fact that Bettman and NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr will continue to stay away from the negotiating table (as LeBrun reports above) is good news.
There's no need to change up what seems to be a good strategy for making progress, which is having a select group of owners meet with a variety of players.
If there's a level of trust being built between the two sides, it would be foolish to do anything that could break that.
It's still too early to believe a deal will be struck quickly because there is still a long way to go.
However, if the league is willing to bend on certain player contract rights, as TSN's Aaron Ward points out, then we could see more progress made in the immediate future:
Reason for optimism, NHL plans to relent on player contracting issues.Player contract length still remains important to the league. #TSN— Aaron Ward (@aaronward_nhl) December 5, 2012
If the season does begin in the next few weeks, the question then becomes how many games should be played.
To get the most sponsorship money and earn the highest amount of hockey-related revenue (HRR), playing 60 games would make sense.
How likely is a 60-game schedule? LeBrun has reported that it was addressed during Wednesday's Board of Governors meeting:
There was talk in BOG of possible NHL schedule IF there's a deal. One team exec said 60 games likely too much but 50-plus possible...— Pierre LeBrun (@Real_ESPNLeBrun) December 5, 2012
Both sides don't want to play too many games because then player injuries could become a real problem, but it's important to both sides that enough games are played to help repair the financial damage that has been done to the league since the lockout went into effect.
If more optimism is generated from Wednesday's negotiations between the league and its players, we may finally begin to see the final stages of the league's third lockout in the last 25 years.
Check back to Bleacher Report's NHL page on Wednesday for updates on the lockout as they become available.
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