When the NHL announced the cancellation of the entire November schedule, the optimism of having a regular season diminished among fans. Any remaining optimism was snuffed out when the league decided to cancel the Winter Classic, an event that would have made history at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, Michigan in January 2013.
The loss of the Winter Classic in turn cancelled the massive celebration of hockey that was planned in Detroit, costing the league and the local economy millions of dollars. Comerica Park would have played host to two alumni games featuring all-time greats from both the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs, NCAA games, minor league games and youth games.
Although the city of Detroit was promised the 2014 Winter Classic, the local community would have benefited from the financial shot in the arm in an area that is still recovering economically from a recession that came to a head in 2008. It makes sense that the Classic was not played because it would have felt awkward to have a grand celebration of hockey coming of a tense time of CBA negotiations.
Despite the cancellation of the Winter Classic, it now appears that the end of the lockout is in sight.
In the NHL, it is characteristic for big things to happen out of nowhere, and that is what happened with the latest round of CBA talks.
Out of nowhere, NHL insiders tweeted that Steve Fehr and Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly were meeting at an undisclosed location in New York City. There was no media presence, no fanfare or any hoopla. It was the most meaningful talk in the CBA process, and it led to some veiled optimism for salvaging the regular season.
In the past, both the NHL and NHLPA met for a few hours at most before convening and addressing the media in an attempt to put a spin on either side’s latest proposal. While most hockey fans were asleep on the East Coast, Aaron Ward of TSN tweeted the following to the masses, and it gave more credence to the belief that serious negotiations were at work.
“According to source, CBA meetings still taking place at this hour. #TSN”
The two parties eventually ended talks without addressing the media, but it was made known that more negotiations were scheduled for the following week. These meetings have been lengthy affairs that have extended into the wee hours of the night, and have been amiable at best.
The best part about the recent round of CBA talks have been the agenda. Both sides are talking about core issues like the salary cap, the split of hockey-related revenue and the make whole clause included in the NHL’s most recent proposal.
Both sides are at the table, and it appears that significant progress is being made. It looks as if Donald Fehr and the NHLPA have come to terms with the fact that they will not be able to maintain a 57 percent share of H.R.R., and the focus has moved to making sure that current contracts are honored. If the NHL and NHLPA can negotiate using the framework of the NHL’s latest proposal, and if current contracts are honored and the make whole provision is further clarified with clear language, the NHL will be able to start a season on Dec. 1.
That appears to be the timeline for both sides according to Jason Kay, the editor of The Hockey News.
Kay tweeted, “Take this for what it’s worth – gossip – but hearing some team employees being told to be prepared for possible season re-start on Dec. 1.”
This is certainly great news for fans, players and owners and it would make sense given the amount of progress and meetings between the two sides over the past week.
Renaud Lavoie, hockey insider for RDS also offered this bit of information on CBA talks during a segment on the network.
“Don Fehr has put a gag order on the players. Fehr did that in MLB once when the two sides were close to a CBA.”
Lavoie also mentioned that a strong rumor going around the league was that the NHL was going to tell the PA: ‘’forget the make whole, we’ll honor your contracts in full for the first two years.’’
Right now, it is actually looking like an agreement is in sight. Both sides will likely claw and fight for the best possible deal for their respective side, but if you had to place a bet on when the league will resume, Dec. 1 is looking like a really good date. If the league starts then, there is the potential to have a season of between 60 and 70 games, and it would make the league very exciting to watch.
Fans are starving for hockey, and although many fans seem dejected given the current state of affairs that led up to the lockout, this latest display of good-will gives them a reason to be hopeful and reason to return to the arena once the NHL lockout comes to an end.