A New Countdown: NHL & NHLPA to Meet Friday

Ten days after the deadline for a new Collective Bargaining Agreement to be reached, we have now past the point where training camps and festivals should have begun.  #Theplayers aren’t being poked and prodded by trainers or reuniting as a team on the ice with their coaches, and any momentum CBA talks seemed to be gaining in the days leading up to the September 15th deadline has all but vanished.  Nothing is happening.

That could all change this Friday.  Multiple sources have confirmed that the NHL and NHLPA will sit down together this weekend.  The exact focus of the meeting has not been revealed.

While the NHL and the players union have reportedly remained in contact, the last formal negotiating meeting between the two groups was almost two weeks ago.  The lockout NHL Commissioner, Gary Bettman, promised was delivered on time and the only word fans have gotten since is a paragraph and a youtube video.

Preseason games through September 30 have been cancelled, meaning I’ve already missed four(ish) Blackhawks games and will miss at least a couple more before the month is up.  Not okay with that.

Preseason cancellations might be easier to swallow if it looked like the owners and the union were making progress in the negotiations to end the lockout before we lose any of the regular season, which as reported by nhl.com Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly says the NHL is “100 percent focused on not missing any regular-season games.”  Again, I’d be tempted to believe that if it felt like there was significant dialog passing between the two sides to move us forward in this, but neither seem intent on dropping their defenses just yet.

Gary Bettman. (Rick Osentoski/US Presswire)

It doesn’t get any easier to think positively when sources are saying Bettman has also planned to cancel the Winter Classic game if no settlement is reached by November.

If these reports are true, it’s just a sad reminder of how much the NHL has the power to take away.  The timetable of the CBA is already in the favor of the NHL, expiring at the end of the offseason rather than the beginning, enabling the owners to exploit the pressure of a deadline with its proximity to the season.  The creation of additional deadlines, such as this alleged cut-off for the WC, re-energizes that negotiation pressure in favor of the NHL.

The 2013 New Years Day Winter Classic between the Detroit Red Wings and the Toronto Maple Leafs is set to take stage in The Big House of the University of Michigan, a stadium that caters to around 100,000 spectators.  Aside from taking the entire season, pulling the WC is a scare tactic move and a bargaining chip of the NHL to push negotiations in their favor, and you can bet they will take full advantage of every opportunity to create new deadlines to chip away at our season little by little until an agreement is forced.

Friday could change a lot, or it could change nothing at all.  Just because Bettman and Fehr have agreed to meet doesn’t mean either have budged much on their side of the chess board.  I doubt there will be any new proposals presented at this point, most likely we’ll see general non-economics talk and maybe a plan to meet again next week.  The important thing is that we start building momentum again with these talks now that there are only 15 days left in the countdown to the regular season.

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