As the NHL lockout turns one month old there are an increasing number of ominous signs that it's going to be a very, very long one.
The Dallas Stars were scheduled to open their season today, hours from now, in Phoenix to take on Dave Tippett's Coyotes. Instead players are scattered across the globe from Finland to Minnesota and parts beyond as they keep themselves occupied while the head of the players association and the league continue to avoid swapping real proposals.
The Globe and Mail reported late Friday afternoon that NHL players from the Columbus Blue Jackets and New Jersey Devils were told by management to secure housing "for the entire American Hockey League season."
These teams obviously feel the lockout is not about to end, and that it's time to dig in.
Meanwhile overseas players continue to talk about possibly staying in the KHL even after a new CBA is signed. Sergei Gonchar talked to ESPN.com in an interview from Russia...
"Yeah, why not? If you think about it, maybe you can put something in the new CBA," Gonchar said. "If the guys feel like it's not fair what's on the table, they might ask [NHLPA executive director] Don [Fehr] to put something in the new CBA to allow them to stay back home. I mean, why not? We don't know where it's going with that new CBA. Everything is possible. That's why I think there is a chance that a guy like Alex might stay back home."
It's going to be a while before owners start believing their own star players with big contracts are really considering it, and getting such provisions in the CBA would be tough, but it's a topic of conversation that just won't die.
Then there's Bob McKenzie's epic published yesterday afternoon offering little hope of a break in the stalemate. His thoughts are not news and there are no developments to report, but his opinion is among the most respected in hockey. His opinions are well informed and his assessments are generally dead-on, and that makes the weight of his words here depressingly heavy on a day the Stars were to open their season.
I could quote dozens of passages in McKenzie's "musings" because it's a frighteningly complete representation of the frustrating nature of this whole thing, but I'll put this one here and encourage you vehemently to read the whole thing...
The NHL has shown zero inclination to phase in anything and the NHLPA won't even contemplate the players taking a dollar less than they've received in the past. Both sides are fearful of showing "signs of weakness" in the negotiations, terrified if they put anything on the table for discussion now it will be pocketed by the other side, never to be seen again.
The truth is, these negotiations haven't even started yet. Not really, not in any meaningful way. We've had proposal(s) from both sides but no actual negotiating on the core economic issues.
Again, it's a depressing, but accurate read on things as they stand now (and could stand for a while) so check it out at TSN.
No further talks are scheduled between Bettman and Fehr, and two days of meetings this week failed to produce a consensus on anything or additional proposals. A real counter-proposal hasn't been made since before the lockout began over a month ago.
The Texas Stars DO open their season tonight in San Antonio. Check out Defending Big D and Hundred Degree Hockey for coverage all season long. It's all we have for the time being.