The expiring Collective Bargaining Agreement appeared to be a difficult—but not impossible—task at that point. However, the situation has only grown worse in the ensuing six months.
We are now at a point where it seems quite likely the 2012-13 season will be canceled unless the two sides put away their differences and come up with an agreement by the middle of January.
On the surface, it seems like most of the financial issues that separated the owners and the players have been negotiated.
The players have agreed on a 50-50 split of revenues (source: The Sporting News) after taking 57 percent in the previous CBA. That's the kind of movement that usually results in new contracts when unions negotiate with management.
That has not been the case in these negotiations between the NHL and the NHLPA. It seems the NHL wants to grind Donald Fehr and the NHLPA into dust by putting a five-year contract limit (source: TSN.ca) on free-agent contracts.
Deputy commissioner Bill Daly has said that the NHL will not compromise on this issue. Daly said it's the hill the league is willing to die on.
The league may be just trying to make a stand and intimidate the players, but Bettman pulled the plug on the 2004-05 season and it seems just as likely that he will do it again.
With the courts now involved since the NHL has filed suit against the NHLPA while that group prepares a disclaimer of interest, it would seem the two sides are getting further away from a settlement.
But I think that much of what we are seeing now is nothing but legal maneuvering designed for the endgame.
The NHL has its "hill to die on," while the players are sick of taking it on the chin.
The NHL received substantial givebacks from the NHLPA in the 2004-05 lockout and have won more changes this time around.
The NHLPA is saying enough is enough.
At some point, the NHL has to realize that Fehr is not joking.
Bettman and his crew have tried to disparage Fehr throughout the process, but the former MLBPA chief has a reputation for honesty and integrity. The players are not buying management's attack on their leader.
No matter what Bettman has said after meeting with owners Jeremy Jacobs (Boston Bruins), Ted Leonsis (Washington Capitals), Murray Edwards (Calgary Flames) and Craig Leipold (Minnesota Wild), it can't be good for the league to miss the 2012-13 season.
Daly said on Sirius XM radio that he thought there will be a season (through CBSSports.com), even though talks have broken down and nothing new is scheduled at this point.
Perhaps Daly had to say something and he decided to be optimistic. Perhaps he knows something that only those within the inner circle know.
This lockout is awful for hockey. The only thing that will keep the NHL from falling even deeper in the hole, is to stop the nonsense and end the lockout.
That's the only logical conclusion.
It will happen late—possibly at the last minute.
But it will happen and there will be a season.