As counterproposals fly back and forth between the NHL and NHLPA faster than you can say "The Winter Classic has been canceled," commissioner Gary Bettman can prove to hockey fans that he at least cares a little bit about the game by directing both sides to a resolution.
The NHL and NHLPA met for about an hour on Wednesday, with the players' association presenting a new proposal, according to the Sporting News. The two sides are expected to meet again Wednesday evening before the NHLPA's self-imposed deadline at midnight ET.
The official deadline to at least preserve a 48-game season is Jan. 11. This is Bettman's third NHL lockout as commissioner and hockey fans are beginning to think he's only in it for the money, making no concessions for the good of the game.
The 60-year-old from Queens has already dug himself a hole, where his reputation currently lies, but allowing the lockout to cancel the entire 2012-13 campaign would be disastrous for his image, if it can even be repaired at this stage in his career.
The very fact that the NHL has offered a counterproposal during the process may be a good sign that things are on the upswing in negotiations. After all, earlier there didn't appear to be much "negotiating" at all. It seemed more like the two sides were arguing to me, seeing who could yell the loudest.
It's pretty clear that one side (or both) will have to make some concessions to preserve a shortened season. Given the last deal was supposed to make things all peachy for the players (or so Bettman claimed), perhaps it's time for the NHL to realize that it's not going to be able to steamroll the players' association at this point.
It's time for Bettman to put his mouth where his money is and start valuing the league more. Nobody is going to change his mind if he doesn't want to change.
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