A summer without hoisting the Stanley Cup would be awful for the NHL.
We are now down to just a number of days.
The NHL says it will cancel the season if there is not an agreement on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) by Jan. 11.
Gary Bettman has done it before. He canceled the 2004-05 season. This is not just an idle threat.
While the talks have seemed to take on roller-coaster characteristics—up one day, down the next—Bettman's track record and seeming vindictiveness leave most hockey fans cold.
However, as bad as the reality is, it will still take even more for Bettman and the owners that supposedly give him his actual marching orders to pull the plug on the season.
The season will be played. Here's why.
If the NHL and the NHLPA can reach an agreement, it looks like the two sides will settle on a 48-game season.
That means there will be a sprint to the playoffs instead of a marathon.
The players will have to be at their best every night. There will be no time for slumps or to make up for a bad start.
This means the level of hockey should be quite high, even if it is for a much shorter period of time.
The bottom line is that a shorter season may create more interest because the sports fan who just happens to turn on his or her television and watch a hockey game will see an exciting competition with two teams performing at their best most nights.
The NHL signed a 10-year, $2 billion contract with NBC in 2011 to televise games on the network and its cable property.
The contract began with the 2011-12 season. In the second season of the agreement, the NHL is failing to deliver the product.
That's bad business for the NHL.
There may be a clause in the contract that would give NBC an extra year (CBSSports.com) if the 2012-13 season is canceled, but that's not a good deal for either party.
Gary Bettman has been on the job as commissioner of the NHL for 20 years.
He is viewed as all-powerful because NHL revenues have increased dramatically during his tenure (SportsNet.ca).
However, if he presides over a second full-season lockout, it is going to be tough for him to survive.
Bettman and a few "hawkish" owners are seen as being the forces behind the lockout (WGRZ.com).
The majority of the owners are not in favor of it.
If the season gets trashed, it may be quite difficult for Bettman to hold on to his position because the public hue and cry will be great and the non-hawk owners may assert themselves.
The NHL's future business looks questionable if the 2012-13 season is lost to a lockout.
The NHL ranks fourth among the major sports in the United States.
While the NFL is well ahead of all of the sports, the NHL ranks behind Major League Baseball and the NBA as well.
There will be no catching up in the foreseeable future if there is a full-season lockout.
The NHL has had momentum, but it has all but dissipated and a canceled season means hockey has a chance of becoming a second- or third-tier sport—losing its status as a bona fide major league sport in the United States.
The lockout began on Sept. 15.
This is the fifth calendar month of the lockout.
Throughout this tedious work stoppage, there has never been any logical explanation of how a complete non-season would be good for any of the parties involved.
How does it help the NHL to lock the players out for a full season?
How does it help the players to not play or collect a paycheck for a full season?
There is no good answer to either question and that's why they will play in 2012-13.
It is one of the greatest ceremonies in sports.
Patrick Kane scores the Stanley Cup-winning goal in overtime. The Bruins control the seventh game. The Kings dominate the sixth game.
The Stanley Cup is awarded.
This is one of the seminal moments of the sports year.
It can't be lost.
When the Stanley Cup is awarded in June, Gary Bettman steps onto the ice and congratulates the Conn Smythe Trophy and Stanley Cup winners. This has to happen.
Fans must let the commissioner know what they think of him.