Why don't we get this out of the way early: There isn't going to be hockey this year. It's over. Hope and optimism are pretty much gone. The fact that mediators saw no reason to have the two sides continue after deeming they're "too far apart" is scary. This is a $3 billion league and mediators can't bridge a $182 million gap? That proves just how little both sides want to get a deal done. These leaders don't want to make a deal they want to WIN the deal.
Let's also quickly inject the slightest glimmer of hope here, since it's going to get worse through the article. There's still time for the two sides to smarten up. Gary Bettman reportedly requested a meeting with only owners and players, an idea Donald Fehr is mulling over. But it won't be all the owners, and personally, if every owner who is for this lockout doesn't have to look their players in the eyes it's a useless meeting.
There's also a BOG meeting coming up soon, but it seems like most of the owners are for the lockout or too scared to speak up. Hopefully James Dolan -- who has never been for this lockout -- will go toe-to-toe with those owners. He has the biggest maket in the world, a money-making team and more money than he knows what to do with. And instead of sitting around the table bitching about what money he doesn't have, he wants to get back on the ice. Maybe he speaks up, maybe he doesn't, maybe it doesn't matte.
Anyway, back to the negatives. If we do miss an entire season then the two sides will have done irreversible damage to the league. Hell, they already might have. When key sponsors come out and publicly say the NHL has now gained a reputation for lying to its sponsors and fans you would think alarm bells would be ringing for Bettman. Apparently they're not. The owners for this lockout (and I call them that because not every owner is for this insanity) seem to think -- thanks to Bettman's pitch, I'm sure -- that fans and sponsors will just flock back next season if this year is lost. They won't. Even if the fans do, the sponsors won't. They might not even come back if we see a half season this year.
That's what's scary, does neither side see the damage they're doing to the league? I don't care how "right" you think the players are, how dignified their stand is, if we lose a season they're damaging the league. Neither side, again NEITHER side, wants to get a deal done. Sure, the players might have showed more give, but they were never winning this battle from the start. And as I've said from the beginning, how frustrating will it be it the NHLPA splinters over the summer after a lost season and takes a deal they turned down last September? It's a very scary and real reality. The players never win here, that's why they need to take the best deal and run. They're not to that point yet.
So now we sit and wait some more as the two sides do damage to the only league that can't afford it. Bettman treats the NHL like it's the NFL. It's not. And who knows if we can survive two lockouts in less than a decade.
I think we're going to find out.