Time is running out on the NHL and NHLPA to reach a new collective bargaining agreement, and the recent lengthy negotiations don't exactly inspire optimism that the puck will be dropped in 2012.
The meetings were scheduled to take place between just the players and the owners in the hopes of solving differences, since consulting a federal mediation agency didn't work and the presence of commissioner Gary Bettman and NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr was not helping matters.
Unfortunately, the two sides could not come to an agreement despite meeting for hours on end on Tuesday and Wednesday, and the tension only got worse as the day progressed, according to Sporting News reporter Sean Gentille.
Bettman and Fehr returned for Thursday's showdown, and according to TSN reporter Bob McKenzie, relations have soured even further in light of the presence of the two sides' biggest wigs:
I can tell you there's a hugely negative vibe emanating from both sides right now. Keeping this process on rails today will be challenging.— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) December 6, 2012
Something is wrong when McKenzie can only report about so-called "vibes" in the meetings. There has clearly been a lack of tangible progress in that context, and the process of moving toward some sort of resolution seems to be hampered by the efforts of Bettman and Fehr.
Or is it a lack there of—of effort—between the two men who are supposed to be spearheading the movement to get hockey back on track?
Each side is clearly not willing to compromise enough to salvage the 2012-13 season, as games through December 14, the All-Star Game and the Winter Classic have all been canceled.
Will the NHL return this season?
The breaking point for fans is beyond reached at this stage. While the players will have to take a severe cut in hockey-related revenue no matter the outcome, it will still be better than sitting out the year and not generating any revenue for them to make.
Not only is the lockout cutting into their paychecks, it's cutting a year out of their careers. A potential run at the Stanley Cup will be gone for some, and a year away can be devastating for all types of players. Not to mention, the employees that depend on the NHL are also being affected by this labor dispute.
It's time to get over the hangup and cut some sort of deal, even if it's short-term.
But the U.S. Federal Mediation and Conciliation Services couldn't solve the problem, and a CBA appears far from imminent amongst the bickering between the NHL and the NHLPA.
Despite the lengthy meetings, there should be no more optimism than there was before this development about a season emerging in the aftermath of this gridlocked debacle.