NEW YORK — As the lockout continues through to its 84th day, one way or another the status of the current season should be resolved within the coming weeks.
While NHLPA boss Donald Fehr was busy reaffirming the union’s stance that both sides are close to a collective bargaining agreement, the NHL declined to comment at their offices in New York, sticking to plans that it did not intend to meet with the union this weekend.
So right now, in the city that never sleeps, it is all quiet on the NHL front. But that’s no reason to get discouraged.
When you take all of the emotion out of Thursday’s statements from both Fehr and NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, both sides have moved closer to reaching an agreement, more so than at any other time throughout this process.
What’s most puzzling from the NHLPA’s standpoint was the reluctance to agree to a ten-year CBA with the choice to opt-out at year eight. As you will recall, Fehr and the NHLPA were willing to continue working without a CBA in place. This in turn, would have meant the season would have started under the old CBA parameters for what would be a ninth straight season.
No matter how you look at it, the NHLPA is really trying to limit the damage, as there isn’t anything that gives the players an advantage over the old CBA. It’s time to get creative here. If there is anything the owners can find that gives the players something they haven’t before, that would take the “what’s in it for us?” factor out of the equation.
Perhaps the NHL could private hotel rooms for all players or giving more for family travel. Maybe even bringing the age of unrestricted free agency down a year? That could be asking too much, but in a world of escrow and dollars spent, it really shouldn’t matter.
It’s 48 hours later. The emotions will subside. But if a resolution of some sort is to come from the weeks and months of madness that everyone has endured over this labour strife, Bettman and the NHL must set a drop-dead date for a shortened season. It’s the final hand to play, and it’s league’s move to make.
For now, we’re all just waiting out, no matter where we are.