2012 NHL CBA Negotiations: Crucial Stage Coming For NHL And NHLPA

Today is Wednesday, four days into the 2012 NHL Lockout, and the day that the two sides are supposedly going to begin meeting formally. Although, for full disclosure, both sides have been talking throughout the lockout, just via phone and e-mail.

But, to this point, those informal talks haven't even lead to the two sides wanting to meet formally in order to help break some ground. Both parties admit that they're still far away, but nearly everyone involved has been saying that it's a massive positive that the two sides are still speaking.

But for as good of a sign as that is, it's not going to mean anything if the two sides can't find some type of reason to hit the negotiating table. Remember that in 2004 the two sides didn't speak for MONTHS. Months. So at least in 2012 they're talking. Even if it's on the phone.

Join me after the jump for more.

According to a report from ESPN, however, the two sides are expected to speak today but might not formally meet. Which is becoming a theme of these negotiations.

The main reason why these next 10 days or so are critical: We're in the stage of these "negotiations" where we might start seeing some cancellations of preseason and regular season games. If the two sides can't find some sort of agreement, and soon, we will start seeing the season shaved down piece by piece.

That should be enough motivation for the two sides to be sitting at the negotiating table. Instead, they're having informal discussions.

At this stage in the game, the two sides should be having all day meetings. We're in yet another lockout, supposedly the last resort for the NHL, and neither side seems willing to want to sit in a negotiating room for more than two hours at a time.

Players are already jumping ship and signing with new teams overseas, and the owners have started giving official statements an sending out letters to season ticket holders.

The only good news? According to some reports, a few owners are genuinely alarmed at the anger seeping through the fans over this lockout. As I mentioned a month ago, in the world we live in today social media is king. There is no place for the NHL and the owners to hide. Do you think the NHL's statement -- which blew up in the league's face -- would have circulated the way it did this year in 2004? Not a chance.

And, for the record, the only reason I mentioned the owners and not the NHLPA above is beause right now the owners are getting 99% of the blame from the fans. And trust me, the NHLPA deserves some blame here too, but the majority of the fans completely blame Gary Bettman and the owners.

So, once again, we're in a holding pattern. Hopefully something breaks the trend soon.

Until then, we wait.