Are the two sides closer than we think? Or are they further than ever?
It seems as though we're going to continue down the "did the two sides make progress or not" road today as the two sides are once again expected to meet Sunday to continue negotiating a new CBA to try and save a season.
But before we can go over Sunday's expected meeting we need to go back to Friday.
On Friday the two sides met for the fourth consecutive day, bringing their total hours of negotiating to over 20 hours over that timeframe. Many reporters were hearing that the talks were dissolving and the two sides were going to break off talks in a bad way. They were partially right.
According to almost all reports the two sides did have a heated exchange at the end of Friday's meeting, and the NHL was already furious at Donald Fehr for a memo he sent to the NHLPA in which he characterized the two sides as much further apart than the NHL believed they were. Then there were concerns that Fehr wasn't fully explaining the NHL's offer to all the players, causing Fehr to have a mini conference call Friday with a couple of players to defend Fehr is that respect.
So where did all this anger come from? Apparently Fehr wants the players to make 100% of their salaries in the first year even though the season won't last 82 games. Fehr denies that allegation and claimed he was just trying to get a framework for the rest of the CBA befor focusing on the firs year. Then there was Fehr sitting under belief that the NHL was dug in on all their contract demands and that the NHLPA would have to accept the entire CBA proposal in order to get the "Make Whole" provision that will protect signed contracts. The NHL, of course, denies that request. Although to be fair all the reports suggest that the only true concession the NHL is demanding is the ending of back-diving or front loaded contracts.
Saturday the two sides had lunch, which was good because there was allegedly a ton of frustration from one side to the other. Apparently feelings calmed down to the point where they're expected to meet again Sunday. Which is good. The two sides are so close now it's actually more likely than not that we'll have hockey this year. That, of course, is so long as things don't blow up at the negotiating table (which they could with the egos involved).
And remember this and remember it well: Both sides are feeling the heat. Apparently sponsors and partners are getting frustrated that there is no hockey. Apparently players not making as much as the superstars are furious that they're dropping critical paychecks.
So what comes next? Hopefully a deal and hopefully one soon.