NHL & NHLPA To Resume Talks But Optimism Fading

The NHL and NHLPA are set to resume labor talks on Monday in New York City with the idea of a December 1 start up date hanging in the balance.  While it’s a step forward to hear the two sides are meeting, not everyone is optimistic about the talks, bringing doubt into play that we may be without hockey for an indefinite period of time.

John Shannon, a hockey analyst at Sportsnet.ca fails to find the optimism in the fact that negotiations will resume, citing that the bridge between the owners and players is so significant it’s hard to fathom any ground being made up towards a new deal.

Shannon feels that neither side has had an “epiphany” in what it would take to get a deal done and he further states that he has heard the NHL has made it’s final offer.  This alone would suggest that there is little doubt the two sides won’t just meet to say they’ve tried and walk away from the table irritated and frustrated with their counterparts.

The former Hockey Night in Canada runner goes on to state that he feels the earliest the season could start would be December 15 if progress is made this week, but he’s not holding out hope for Monday’s meetings.

Is the fact that the two sides are at least trying to negotiate not a positive?  Sure the past two months of talks have resulted in the same thing every time they break; the tell the media that the other side is not being realistic and they don’t know where they go from here, only to reschedule another meeting resulting in another attempt to try and figure this thing out.

The more disturbing news was when Gary Bettman suggested the two sides take a two-week reprieve from talking at all.  This in itself could have been catastrophic for the game and thankfully Donald Fehr did not agree, instead suggesting the two sides need to at least talk.  Otherwise sustaining traction towards a deal would never be possible.

While it’s understandable to sympathize with Shannon’s thoughts and point of view, you get the feeling that the pressure is starting to mount in both camps and that a deal may be imminent in the near future.  Over the weekend we learnt from TSN that Philadelphia Flyers owner Ed Snider may be tiring of the lockout despite his comments that he’s behind Bettman and the other owners.  Maybe everyone involved realizes that saving a shortened regular season is the best thing for the game instead of losing a second, full season in the last eight years.

This is nothing more than speculation on my behalf and I realize that speculation doesn’t carry any merit.  But rather than fall into the eternal darkness of despair thinking that the meetings today will only yield more criticism between the NHL and NHLPA, let’s consider we could be waiting for two weeks to pass before the owners and players even meet.  Whose to say when they emerge from talks tonight they don’t have some positive news, something that would surely spark optimism with everyone who follows the game.

For now we are forced to sit and wait, holding our breath, hoping that either side will be the bearer of good news for a change and Mr. Shannon will stand corrected that Monday’s talks do provide a sense of optimism.

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