NHL Lockout 2012: Players-owners meeting produces true progress

Bruce Bennett

Last night, for the first time in this long, tiring process, progress was made between the two sides.

In what was largely expected to be yet another wasted meeting, the players and owners actually made some progress Tuesday afternoon. For the first time in this process, meetings were held and ended without someone "in the know" hearing something negative from one of their sources.

No, yesterday didn't yeild any negativity, but it also hasn't yielded a deal ... yet. And that right there is the difference. The mood of these talks has changed a little, the two sides made real progress yesterday and now the tone shifts to the final stretch of these negotiations.

Now, that's not to say Wednesday's meetings can't blow everything sky high. While Tuesday was fantastic, almost everyone in this circle agrees that Wednesday's meeting is the key to all of this. Bridging the final gaps, getting a deal done.

So what's left? Apparently the make whole amount is still an issue, but most believe the two sides will just split the difference (something they should have really done from the get-go). Same goes for contracting rights, although it's hard to split five years and no limit. But it doesn't change the cautious optimism surrounding these talks.

How is any of this different from all the other CBA articles posted on this site the past few months? The two sides aren't dug in as much. I did always feel that these meetings would be successful so long as the two sides had a few members who were willing to be reasonable. In the end, it came from Sidney Crosby and Pittsburgh Penguins owner Ron Burkle. But, to be fair, that was always going to be the link in a meeting like this.

How was an owner going to react when they had to look into their own player's eyes and negotiate. It's much easier to sit in a room, take a hard stance (this isn't to assume Burkle was a hard-liner to begin with) and stay strong. But for Burkle he was dealing with the face of his franchise. One of the faces of the NHL. Obviously they were going to be a voice of reason.

So while everyone will undoubtably give Crosby and the Penguins ownership group credit (credit they do deserve) do remember the other side of this as well. As well as Tuesday went, the six owners in the room still have to get the other hard-line owners to come around. Maybe they did last night. But aside from Jeremy Jacobs, I can't imagine one owner who could look in his captain's eyes and tell him he won't let him play hockey.

So enjoy this cautious optimism. Remember, too, that the BOG meeting is Wenesday as well, but that won't stop the morning's talks.

More when it comes.

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