The players are going to meet the owners face to face on Tuesday. But will we see any progress from Donald Fehr and Gary Bettman not being in the room?
Well, yesterday was a crazy day, now wasn't it? We went from speculating about the emotions between the two sides in Tuesday's meetings (which will contain six owners and a series of players) to debating whether or not a WBZ report about the lockout ending Tuesday or Wednesday was true.
In the end, it appears as though none of those who are generally "in the know" give any credence to this rumor. It's a nice thought, really, but probably not a reality. Or, if it is, neither side's respective sources are saying anything. Is it possible that the lockout is nearing an end? Yes, if only because the two sides aren't really that far apart. But if you map out the way things have gone during these talks you know that it's far more likely that the two sides haven't made any progress at all.
Look, I'm all for optimism and hope, but these negotiations haven't been about negotiating for a long, long time. These sides aren't separated by dollars or contracting rights, even though there are gaps in those areas. These negotiations are about the egos in the room; and they have build bigger walls in these talks than any of the real issues on the table ever have.
Which is why there is a sliver of hope between the two sides meeting without Gary Bettman or Donald Fehr in the room. You want to know how Tuesday's meeting works? You want to know why it's a good thing? Because it forces the owners to look into the eyes of the players, rather than hiding behind Bettman (who is actually hiding behind Bill Daly -- but that's another story).
But how much will that matter with Jeremy Jacobs in the room? Don't be fooled for one second, the owners hand picked for this meeting are all very much for the lockout. If they weren't, Bettman wouldn't have put them in the room. So if you're expecting a few owners to stand up in the middle of the meeting and say, "You know what, guys, we've never looked at it that way," then keep dreaming. The only thing Tuesday is going to accomplish is letting us know just how dug in each side is.
Maybe, just maybe, the owners will take a step forward and say: "We'll give in on the make whole if you give in on contracting rights." Maybe, just maybe, the players will say: "We'll give in on the contracting rights if you give in on the make whole." Or even if it's the other way around. In the end, it doesn't matter who steps up first, it just matters that the two sides put an end to this nonsense.
If anything proves just how dumb all of this is, it's the WBZ report. The two sides really are close enough that this war can be ended Tuesday. Read that sentence again. If the two sides broke through on Tuesday the only surprise would be that one of the two sides blinked, not that they actually bridged the gap.
Maybe that's why this is so frustrating. Or maybe it's because deep down none of us truly has any real hope to see things come to an end just yet.
Or maybe it's because of all the "maybes" in these stories.