The fight between the NHL and the NHL Players' Association is either nearing the end or nearing a long break.
Gary Bettman has been threatening to cancel the season if an agreement is not reached soon. Based on his track record, there's no reason to believe this is an idle threat.
If the two sides don't reach an agreement and the season is canceled, there will be no talks for a long time. Not until it's time to prepare for the 2013-14 season.
A lost season would be disastrous for the NHL. It ranks fourth in major professional North American sports leagues, well behind the NFL, Major League Baseball and the NBA. It will fall even further behind those leagues and it might only be considered a niche sport if a second full season in eight years is lost.
Here are individuals and organizations that have the most to lose:
Gary Bettman is the lockout commissioner.
No matter how much he has helped the NHL improve its business (source: Sportsnet.ca), he is presiding over his third lockout and this would be the second one that knocks out a full season.
He does not realize that locking out the players—and the paying customers—is bad for business.
Losing a second full season could prove to be disastrous for the sport. Even though he works for the owners, Bettman is the most influential power broker in the league and is leading it down the road to disaster—and possibly ruination (source: New York Times).
Jeremy Jacobs is one of the most powerful owners in the NHL. He is a businessman who wants the NHL to cut costs and that means taking it to the players during the current negotiations.
The Boston Bruins owner has Gary Bettman's ear. Jacobs wants to win at all costs against the players, and he has been sharp and dismissive with other owners who don't have his power and influence (source: CSNNE.com).
In short, he is a bully.
When the lockout ends and the NHL gets back to the business of playing hockey, will free agents want to come to play for Jacobs?
Will Bruins' free agents want to remain in his employ? How about Peter Chiarelli and Claude Julien? The Bruins' general manager and head coach will likely say and do all the right things, but once their contracts are up, will they want to stay with Jacobs if there are other options?
The NHL and the NBC television network signed a 10-year, $2 billion deal in 2011. The huge television deal was the first of its kind for the sports league, which has traditionally had a tough time attracting television money and viewers.
However, NBC showed a commitment to the NHL and the sport of hockey.
The first year of the deal was 2011-12. The league has not presented the network with any inventory in the second year of the agreement.
While the league has promised an extra year of programming at the end of the contract if a season is wiped out by a labor stoppage, this lockout is bad for the network and bad for business.
Sidney Crosby is the NHL's highest-profile player. He may be the best player in the game.
Crosby had half of his 2010-11 season wiped out by concussion-related health issues and more than half of his 2011-12 season wiped out by the same issue.
He finished last season healthy and ready to go.
However, the lockout has kept him from playing hockey. When a superstar loses at least half a season for three straight years, he has lost a significant portion of his career.
Crosby needs to get back on the ice.
It takes two to tango.
While it seems clear that Gary Bettman and a group of "hawkish" owners are behind this lockout, Donald Fehr has to take some responsibility.
He is the executive director of the NHLPA and he needs to get the players back on the ice.
It's not about winning or losing; it's about getting the players back to work.
Fehr can't allow this to become a personal battle or grudge at any point, no matter how he is treated by Bettman and the NHL.
If the season is lost, Fehr will have to take some portion of the blame.
This was supposed to be the New York Rangers' year.
The Rangers were the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference a year ago, and they made it to the Eastern Conference Finals before they were eliminated by the New Jersey Devils.
The perception was that the Rangers lost because they did not have enough scoring. They added explosive Rick Nash in the offseason and became the favorites to win the 2013 Stanley Cup.
Who knows where they will stand in 2013-14 or 2014-15? If there is no season in 2012-13, this will be a bad year for the Rangers and head coach John Tortorella, who appeared to be in prime position to win the second Stanley Cup of his career.
If Tortorella doesn't get a championship this year, when will he get his next opportunity?