Today is an exciting day for hockey fans. It's also a day filled with anxiety.
Every time the two sides meet the fans have been filled with optimism about both parties making a breakthrough. But so far every meeting has ended with basically the same quote, "we're still very far apart." Today's meeting won't be on the main economic issues. They won't be arguing about percentages, or about HRR. At least not in the beginning.
The meeting is scheduled to be about some of the little things the two sides have yet to agree on in the current negotiations. That doesn't mean the two sides are limited to talking about non-core economic topics. Meetings are scheduled through Sunday, and if the parties can come to some quick agreements on Friday, maybe the weekend meetings can be focused more on the important stuff.
Remember, there are many different parts to this negotiation. Currently the percentage of the HRR is taking all the spotlight but there are other issues at hand too, including realignment, ELC lengths, max contracts and years of service to become a free agent. If one side takes a hit on those topics, then maybe the other side would be willing to take a hit on the percentages.
But we've danced this dance before. Here's why Friday's meeting is so vital:
You want the two sides to get off to a god start. If these three meetings go by and the two sides can't even agree on the little stuff, then the fans can pretty much buckle their seat belts and get ready for a long, long ride. But if the two sides make progress, even if it's just progress on the little things, then that means the two sides are getting somewhere.
Remember, regular season games might be cancelled as early as next week. That has to be enough incentive for the two sides to meet for more than 90 minutes and try to hash things out.
The NFL just got through a major lockout with the replacement referees. Negotiations that saw the two sides meet for over 10 hours a day. Think about that in comparison to what the NHL and the NHLPA has done when they were negotiating -- let alone the fact that they didn't meet for two weeks.
But Friday can change all that. Hopefully it does. The season might depend on it.