Every two weeks or so throughout the lockout, the NHL has issued a statement that more games have been scratched off the schedule.
It is a matter of course since the lockout started Sept. 15. Preseason games were canceled first, then early-season games in October.
November games were canceled, the Winter Classic at Michigan Stadium was canceled and then December games.
Finally games through Jan. 14 were ripped from the heart of the schedule.
The belief is that if an agreement between the NHL and the NHL Players' Association is not reached by Jan. 15, the season will be gone.
It is not a hard deadline. It is the belief of those close to the game on both sides that there cannot be a legitimate season unless at least 48 games are played. It would be difficult to play that many games if the two sides don't come to an agreement by then so legitimate games can be played by the end of January or Feb. 1 at the latest.
Putting a hard deadline on the season cancellation date might be the best thing to end the lockout.
It will put an end to speculation about the end of the season. Everyone will know that it is coming.
Right now, everyone thinks they know it is coming, but there is nothing official. Deputy commissioner Bill Daly has said that the lockout needs to end "about mid-January" (source: Yahoo.com).
A hard deadline means both sides will have to end their intractability. It will mean that reasonable minds will have to take the lead in the talks and the hard-liners will have to be shunted to the background.
Hockey Night in Canada commentator and former NHL coach Don Cherry believes that a 48-game season could be tremendously exciting.
"Don't you remember the last time it was half a season and New Jersey won the Cup? It was a sprint not a marathon," Cherry told the Edmonton Journal. "Play within their own conference. Lots of action. The guys know every game is important. Won't have the half season blahs. It will be terrific!"
There are 30 owners in the NHL. To this point, the lead opinion makers behind the lockout are commissioner Gary Bettman, Boston Bruins hard liner Jeremy Jacobs, Minnesota Wild owner Craig Leipold and Calgary Flames boss Murray Edwards.
The other 27 owners are going to have to find the courage to speak up over Bettman and his crew that want to grind the NHLPA down.
Time is of the essence. There are just a few weeks left with a chance to save the season.
This lockout has been more about a game of chicken than it has been about negotiations.
It is time for the children to go back to their room and it is time for the grown-ups to take over.
A hard deadline will help that situation come to the forefront.