Two things happened to me yesterday that truly made the lockout hit home. One of them was very expected. The other was remarkably unexpected.
We'll start with the expected story. Yesterday afternoon the NHL announced the cancellation of all preseason hockey games through September 30th. Considering the two sides haven't had formal discussions since last Wednesday, this isn't a surprise at all. It's just a reality that hockey fans knew was coming and tried to block out.
The unexpected story is a little crazier. Coming home from work on Wednesday I was in a very, very good mood. My train was on time (that NEVER happens, and on Tuesday it was significantly delayed due to the storms) and I was in my car and on my way home happily listening to some soothing country music. The lockout and cancellation of games was about as far from my mind as can be.
And then it happened.
Join me after the jump for more. (What an awesome cliffhanger, right?)
When the song stopped the DJ came on and started talking about, you guessed it, the NHL lockout. Really? Really? A country music station talking about the NHL lockout? What are the chances? And what were the chances of me listening to country music on the way home? (Note: I love country music but I usually drive home from the train station is silence. Something about listening to the purr of an engine is soothing to me. I don't know. Stop judging me.)
Anyway, I took it all as a sign. The lockout is here.
Now before you shout, "duh!" at the computer screen, let me explain myself. Up to this point the NHL lockout didn't feel real. It just didn't.
It didn't feel like training camp was supposed to open up tomorrow. It didn't feel like we were less than a week away for the first set of preseason games. It didn't feel like hockey was right around the corner.
Now there's no hiding it. The lockout is officially here. Any hope about the NHL and the NHLPA getting a deal together before anything had to be cancelled is officially dead. To this point, no regular season games have been chopped. But as it stands right now, that's not going to be true much longer.
The two sides haven't even met formally yet. Supposedly they talked again on Wednesday, and still have no plans to set up formal negotiations. Think about that for a second. The two sides have spoken every say since last Wednesday, and there are still no formal negotiations planned.
What is the point of those phone conversations? What are they saying to one another? How is it possible that they're so far apart that they don't see a point in negotiating?
Want to know the reality of the situation? Donald Fehr is using the very little leverage he has to his advantage right now. Fehr's clients aren't going to be missing checks until the NHL starts canceling regular season games. So what's the point of the NHLPA rushing to get a deal done? To Fehr, eventually the owners need to crack and come to the table with a better offer than the one they offered before the deadline, to try and stop the bleeding now. Time will tell if it works.
To me? Gary Bettman won't blink. And when the NHLPA does start losing paychecks (remember, a LARGE majority of the NHLPA isn't going to be courted overseas) Bettman might start taking his time. What's the common theme here? Patience. The one thing the league and the fans don't have to spare.
But this is the way the two sides work. Hockey in November or December? I hope so. But right now, the lockout is the reality.