The NHL lockout's endgame is starting to take shape. Commissioner Gary Bettman is ready to cancel the season next Thursday if an agreement isn't reached with the Players' Association, as Gary Lawless of the Winnipeg Free Press reports.
Citing a board of governors source, Lawless states the belief that players' representative Donald Fehr isn't interested in making a deal until the season is canceled is growing within the league. The owners' side believes Fehr thinks that will give him extra leverage.
It's a worrisome change of course in the rhetoric for NHL fans. After a couple of days where it seemed like serious progress was perhaps being made, things have come to a sudden halt. A new wave of anonymous talking points is not a good sign.
Letting a second season slip away in the span of eight years, and at a point when the league was finally starting to pick up momentum again, always appeared like something the two sides would eventually avoid. That's become far less of a certainty.
Even though fans have made it clear over the past few months how frustrated they are with another work stoppage, the league continues to completely ignore their voices. It will have a negative impact whenever play does resume.
If the report is true, there are six days remaining to make a deal before the Thursday (Jan. 10) deadline, which would be one day sooner than has been previously reported. Either way, time is certainly of the essence.
The negative backlash would reach titanic proportions if the season were canceled. Whether or not the NHL and its players realize that is unknown. Judging by their lack of respect for the fans over the past decade, they probably don't.
Ultimately, the two sides have around one week to find enough common ground to complete a deal. If they can't, hockey fans will be left out in the cold for yet another season.
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