2012 NHL Lockout: Is There Room For Optimism In The NHL CBA Negotiations?

The NHL and the NHLPA are meeting formally on Friday. Should fans be hopeful the two sides can close the gap?

Well, we made it through the first day of the new launch without anyone passing out, building falling down or people spontaneously combusting. If you didn't visit yesterday, or you're still confused about how things are running make sure to take a look at this introduction story I posted yesterday.

The biggest complain you all registered with the new look of Blueshirt Banter was not having hockey to go with how awesome the site upgrade is. And while we can't fix that with an e-mail to support, it looks like the NHL and the NHLPA took a step forward in fixing that as well.

How big of a step will be seen on Friday.

Friday is obviously the day the two sides have agreed to meet to hash out some of the non core economic issues the two sides have yet to agree on. According to multiple people who are being paid to cover these meetings, this is a major step in the right direction. Just having formal negotiations at this point has to be seen as a positive. And while the two sides are meeting specifically to speak about the non core economic issues, both sides have agreed that no topic is off the table.

Chris Johnston sees some room for optimism in Friday's negotiations. From his article Tuesday night:

Despite stalled negotiations, Daly said earlier this week that the process was "light years" ahead of where it was at this point in 2004. The decision to return to the bargaining table is evidence of that. Eight years ago, the sides let three months pass after the lockout was enacted before resuming talks.

"We are pleased the league is willing to come back to the bargaining table and we look forward to Friday's discussions," Fehr said.

While a significant economic gulf remains this time around, at least one veteran negotiator believes it's a good sign the NHL and NHLPA are willing to discuss issues such as pensions, grievance procedures and travel in the meantime.

"It means that once they settle the economic issues they want to start playing right away," said the negotiator, who requested anonymity.

There is some hope sprinkled in there. And yes, so long as Donald Fehr and the NHLPA keep negotiating in the salary cap world the two sides are miles ahead of where they were last year.

Remember, we're closing in on the final days before the NHL season is going to start missing games. And that's a huge deadline for both sides. If the average NHL team makes $400,000 per preseason game, imagine what they will bring in for a regular season game? Take Madison Square Garden for example, an arena that holds 18,200 people, James Dolan is scheduled to make $1.8 million (assuming the average ticket price is $100) per home game. Do you think the owners (especially the small market teams that are losing money even when they are bringing in full gate revenue) want to miss games? Heck no.

And what about the players? To this point the players haven't lost a single dollar to the NHL lockout. But that changes the second regular season games are cancelled. The minute games are removed from the schedule the players start missing some checks. And when both sides are losing money that's when emotions start to hit a tipping point and both sides start to get some bad blood.

That's when negotiations can turn sour really fast.

But consistent meetings can help sooth the process, even if games are missed -- mainly because both sides are working under the same conditions.

Anyway, Friday is a step forward. How big of a step forward remains to be seen.