With a new year comes new optimism.
The NHL lockout has dragged on for three painfully long months, and in the process, Donald Fehr and Gary Bettman quickly transformed themselves into public enemies No. 1 and 2, the sport likely lost millions of fans and all hope of watching Steven Stamkos and Evgeni Malkin harass opposing defenses was completely, 100 percent lost.
But as the clock struck midnight and we all broke out those new kitten calendars, the gloom of losing a season slightly eased and a tiny sliver of hope emerged.
In their first formal negotiations since December 13, Fehr and Bettman emerged with incredibly positive news (via Sporting News):
“We spent a good part of the afternoon with the Players' Association,” Bettman said. “They were responsive to the proposal that we made on Thursday, and their response was a comprehensive one, dealing with the full slate of issues that we raised and proposals that we put forth. We’re in the process of reviewing that response.”
The commissioner expected that review to last most of the evening, and plans were made for a continuation of negotiations on Tuesday afternoon at 5 p.m. ET. Neither Bettman nor Fehr provided any specifics of what was in the NHLPA’s counterproposal, and it had to be seen as an encouraging sign that details did not come gushing out from unnamed sources. Every time that has happened over the course of the negotiations, it has been a harbinger of grim news ahead.
It's important to note that we've been in this situation before. Bettman and Fehr have come forth with encouraging details only to fall back into one of their classic cat fights just hours later.
Nonetheless, this newest proposal comes along with a refreshing, even more promising vibe. With the deadline to make a deal set at January 11, it feels—for the first time during this agonizing ordeal—that both parties actually care about providing fans with some NHL action in the new year.
It appears that with their backs against the wall, Bettman and Fehr are finally putting some substance into their negotiations.
Also for the first time, the players, such as Philadelphia Flyers goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov, agree (via Ruslan Salikhov of Rushockey.com):
I should re-frase that - Ilya Bryzgalov: "I quit CSKA because lockout is ending"— Ruslan Salikhov (@rushockey) December 30, 2012
Of course, Bryzgalov is just a tad bit crazy, so it's crucial to take whatever he says with a grain of salt. But according to Philly.com, Wayne Simmonds, Matt Read and Claude Giroux have also returned from overseas.
While it's understandable to be dubious when it comes to anything regarding the NHL at this moment, this is as close as we've come to encouraging news in a long time, and it's enough cause for me to finally be hopeful.
Call it my New Year's resolution.