Another round of cancellations -- this one taking away games through the middle of January? The players voting on whether or not to give their leaders the power to dissolve the union? The NHL quietly threatening that the next round of cancellations will be the last?
This has become worse than a nightmare. This has become a joke. Actually, it's been a joke for a long time, but this week has pushed things to a new level. The sides are no longer even reaching out to talk informally. They're not touching base, they're not making any attempts to fix anything. They're just waiting. And waiting. And waiting.
Except at some point they need to realize the damage they're already done to the game, and the further damage they will do if they cancel a season. Not that the ideology of damaging the game seems to matter to either side. And, when you boil these talks down, the two sides are fighting over money and pride while they destroy the game. At least in 2004 there was a reason for the lockout (the salary cap), while this year there's no reason beyond stupidity.
Like I said a few weeks ago, the end is near. One way or another this farce will be over, and fans can either move on or start recovering. My guess? I still think we're going to have a season. But if the NHL does get to the next round of cancellations -- and actually follows through on their threat -- then this will end.
To this point there have been no confirmations that the next round will be the last, but you can read it in the cards easily enough. The NHL already admitted that the "drop-dead" date was somewhere around mid-January. That is probably true enough. But is that the drop-dead date for a deal, or the drop dead date for the season to start? Is that the date they cancel the season, or the date they actually start trying to make a deal.
You would think things would be more clear at this stage in the negotiations. Not even close. Instead we're closer than ever in terms of the deals, and farther apart in terms of egos and lunacy.
Do I think there will be a season this year? Yes. But either way, things are coming to an end soon.
Even if the NHL is the one ending it.