The NHL has promised to lockout the players and the NHLPA should an agreement not be reached when the current CBA expires, a date that is now exactly one week away. If a lockout does occur it is apparent that coming to an agreement will become much harder for both sides, making the possibility of a significant delay to the season all the more closer to reality.
When negotiations broke off over a week ago, with both sides turning to the media in the first salvo of truly ugly public negotiating between Donald Fehr and Gary Bettman, the fear was that the lockout was now an inevitability instead of just a possibility. The NHL and NHLPA said they'd be open for further negotiations, but not many had hopes such a thing would happen anytime soon.
On the contrary.
Fehr and Bettman, along with NHL VP Bill Daly and others from the NHLPA, met for informal talks on Friday for nearly three hours. Not much was said publicly other than both Bettman and Fehr making it known that coming to an agreement was the goal of both sides.
"Trying to find a way to bridge the gap," said Fehr. "That's always the intent."
"We'd like to make a deal," said Bettman. "There is an ebb and flow to negotiations. It's always good to have dialogue."
The two met again this morning, briefly, and word is that Bettman and Fehr are planning on meeting again on Sunday. These are far from formal discussions or negotiations but it's clear that -- at the very least -- both sides are attempting to get some forward momentum going as the Sept. 15 deadline looms closer and closer.
Both the NHL and NHLPA are set to meet separately in New York City next week, with over 200 players apparently scheduled to be in town for the union's meeting. Bettman and the NHL executives will meet with the NHL Board of Governors, to discuss the current negotiations and likely get permission to go ahead with the lockout should an agreement not be made in time.
While this is blatant optimism at work, the hope is that the meetings between Bettman and Fehr could at least create some sort of common ground which both can go to their respective corners and see if the basis for an agreement can be reached.
The fact that both sides are talking can only be considered a good thing.