NHL Players & Owners Meeting Brings Cautious Optimism To Lockout

In an attempt to salvage the regular season, both the NHL and NHLPA have agreed to meet again on Tuesday in hopes that the two sides can work closer towards a new CBA.  The twist this time is that neither Gary Bettman or Donald Fehr will attend, but rather six owners and a small group of players have been assigned to spear head the negotiations.  It’s a move that could bring some much needed optimism to the otherwise lackluster affair that has seen all scheduled talks grind to a halt, that is until now.

According to TSN.ca, the six owners that will represent the NHL include Jeremy Jacobs of the Boston Bruins, Mark Chipman of the Winnipeg Jets, Jeffery Vinik of the Tampa Bay Lightning, Murray Edwards of the Calgary Flames, Ronald Burkle of the Pittsburgh Penguins and Larry Tanenbaum of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Interestingly enough, Minnesota Wild owner Craig Leipold is not apart of this list.  Leipold is one of the four owners who is a part of the NHL negotiating committee and was at one point said to be one of the eight owners who were dead set on having the lockout continue until the league gets what they want.  But we’ve since heard differently that Leipold, while supporting Bettman, does want to see hockey this year providing the owners aren’t making all the concessions.

While it’s not yet known which players will be chosen as part of the small group of representatives, Fehr is encouraged by the latest events that will lead to having some owners present in the room.

“There will be owners attending this meeting who have not previously done so, which is encouraging and which we welcome. We hope that this meeting will be constructive and lead to a dialogue that will help us find a way to reach an agreement.”

So if the head of the player’s union is encouraged, does this mean that the fans should be?  Maybe partly, but there has already been too much doom and gloom to get excited over one meeting, even if it brings a unique angle to it.  Should progress be reported when the two sides break after Tuesday’s meeting then maybe there could be reason to hold out hope.  But if they end talks and continue to sling mud at one another through the media, it’s hard to say what the next steps will be in terms of getting together to try and bridge the gap that remains.  And it’s reportedly a country mile wide of a gap, meaning that progress will have to be made soon if a deal is to be worked out and a shortened season permissible.

Interestingly enough the NHLPA asked to have the same two federal mediators who attended last week’s meetings attend Tuesday’s planned meeting, but the league and owners dismissed the idea.  While some could look at this as upsetting news, mediators were used on three separate occasions during the last lockout so there could be plenty of opportunity to have them sit in on the talks.  That being said, we all remember how effective the mediators were back in 2005 before Bettman cancelled the rest of the regular season.  At this point, try something different which is exactly what the two sides are doing.  Nothing ventured, nothing gained and really, what else do we have to lose other than hockey for another six months.

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