NHL Lockout Rumors: CBA Negotiations Nearing End, Bettman Wants Deal by Friday

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NHL Lockout Rumors: CBA Negotiations Nearing End, Bettman Wants Deal by Friday
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

After three torturous months of false alarms and crumbling trust, the NHL lockout may have finally reached the diluted, bittersweet light at the end of the tunnel.

The shift in momentum began as 24 new faces found themselves at the center of Tuesday's meetings.

Six owners—including Boston's Jeremy Jacobs, Pittsburgh's Ron Burkle, Tampa Bay's Jeff Vinik and Winnipeg's Mark Chipman—and 18 actual players—including Sidney Crosby, Jonathan Teows, Ryan Miller and Shane Doan—met for seven hours over two sessions.

Neither NHL commissioner Gary Bettman nor NHLPA leader Donald Fehr were present. However, the two sides had, according to players' representative Steve Fehr, a "constructive day."

Per Kevin Allen of the USA Today:

There was an acknowledgment from both sides that they will have to give up something to reach a deal to end the 81-day old lockout. Although both parties have been careful not to reveal what exactly was said on Tuesday, the word "flexibility" seems to be emerging from both camps.

The NHL and NHLPA were both willing to delay this week's scheduled hearings [at] the Quebec Labour Board. The meetings have been postponed to accommodate more bargaining.

Wednesday morning, reports from insiders indicated a reason for the upturn in progress. Per Doug MacLean, former NHL GM (via David Staples of the Edmonton Journal):

Six weeks ago...the NHL’s position [was] "knock ‘em down, drag ‘em out until December 1st, and then at December 1st we’re getting a deal done...The owners are saying they’re going to be flexible and the players are saying they’re going to be flexible."

Sportsnet reporter Nick Kypreos echoed MacLean, telling Staples

Gary [Bettman] is ready to get a deal done. He wants this thing done Friday. Friday!

Optimism continued to rise after the NHL's Board of Governors meeting around midday Wednesday. As Blue Jackets' representative John Davidson told the Los Angeles Times' Helene Elliot afterwards:

Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

While Bettman said little to the press, reports materialized regarding a Wednesday afternoon CBA proposal from the NHLPA. Hockey Night in Canada's Elliotte Friedman tweeted after Bettman's brief press conference:

Meetings between owners and players resumed shortly after 2:00 PM Wednesday. Three hours later, the two sides broke for a recess; TSN's Bruce Arthur tweeted on the general mood during the break:

If a CBA deal is struck in the next few days, a shortened 2012-13 NHL season could begin before Christmas. Per Yahoo!'s Greg Wyshynski:

Possible formats for the season include 56, 60 or 62 games. The NBA played 66 in their lockout-shortened 2011-12 campaign.

This potential conclusion to the work stoppage comes almost three months after the previous CBA officially ended (Sept. 15). The first regular season games were cancelled on Oct. 5. A breakthrough seemed to be offing back in early November, but the general mood soon headed downhill. 

In fact, as recently as last week, the NHL's supposed last resort—mediation—crumbled quickly, encouraging many fans and experts alike to declare the season dead

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Now, conversely, hope for a lockout resolution—one that could potentially come within the next several dozen hours—has reached an all-time high. Not even the most pessimistic Vegas bookkeeper would bet against a season start date sometime before New Year's Day.

Is the final resting place for this autumn's lockout near? Will the two sides present a rather miraculous CBA to the hockey universe in the coming days? The answers may finally be arriving soon.

 

Mark Jones has been a Bleacher Report featured columnist since 2009. He has written more than 435 articles and received more than 760,000 reads. 

Visit his profile to read more, or follow him on Twitter.

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