If CBA talks continue to produce no results and the deadline to save the 2012-13 NHL season quickly approaches with no resolution in sight, the league and its players should play without a complete agreement, start the season and continue to talk until all issues are finalized.
Elliotte Friedman addressed one possible avenue the two sides could take in his "30 Thoughts" column on Tuesday for CBC Sports:
A couple of weeks ago, I mentioned the lockout-shortened 1995 NHL season and how it was played with a "Memorandum of Understanding" and not a signed collective bargaining agreement. Games resumed as lawyers haggled over the details and the New Jersey Devils won the Stanley Cup. The deal was not finished until August. Well, Fehr was asked about it in New York and sounded amenable to the idea. As for the NHL, deputy commissioner Bill Daly wrote in an email: "We would likely entertain the possibility of playing with some interim level of documentation, but I expect that we will require more detail than what he had in 1994-95." Something to keep in mind.
The consequences of losing the entire year would be severe for everyone involved, whether you are a high-paid player, a fourth-line veteran, an owner of a small-market team or an owner of a large-market, Original Six team.
The reaction that Friedman received from both sides regarding another possible "Memorandum of Understanding" was encouraging, but we are probably still a few weeks from this being a real conversation.
It's still hard to imagine that a deal won't get done before the season needs to be saved in order to get the minimum number of 48 regular season games played.
After mediation once again failed to make any progress in negotiations on Wednesday, we could see NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr continue to push the league and try to get them to move toward the players as much as possible on certain issues.
Darren Dreger of TSN has an update on the league's position:
Mediator will speak with PA this morning. If he concludes a deal is close he will recommend meeting. Flip-side...neg returns to square 1.— Darren Dreger (@DarrenDreger) December 13, 2012
NHL has delivered the message it is pretty much a take it or leave it, however, that doesn't mean the league won't trade on certain things.— Darren Dreger (@DarrenDreger) December 13, 2012
Don't expect a new CBA to be reached anytime soon unless the players decide to make concessions on issues such as player contract term limits, CBA term and salary variance.
This isn't likely to happen so it's hard to see a deal happening until some time in early to mid-January.
If neither side is willing to move toward the other enough to make a deal by the deadline, then the league and the players must discuss the idea of playing with a "Memorandum of Understanding" or something similar so as to ensure that the season is played.
Losing the season cannot be an option for either side under any circumstances, especially when they are close enough to make a fair agreement for all involved.
There is absolutely no way that the league can allow a season to be canceled and expect the game to grow much at all in the near future.
Playing a shortened 2012-13 season without a full CBA isn't an ideal situation for the league and players' union, but it would be much better than not reaching a deal and forcing fans to wait until September of next year or beyond to see NHL games again.