NEW YORK - Sept. 15, 2012 proved to be another miserable day for the NHL in an era that has seen a cycle of dysfunction between the league and its players.
As expected, there were no late-game dramatics on Saturday. There was no final bargaining session between the two sides.
After conversations between NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly and NHLPA's No. 2 man, Steve Fehr, earlier in the day, Daly finally made it official that there would be no final bargaining session before the midnight ET lockout deadline. What a shocker, we jest.
The two sides have agreed not to meet until either the NHLPA or NHL has a new proposal to present. It could be a long wait.
This is the third lockout under NHL commissioner Gary Bettman. In 1994-95, the labour dispute lasted 103 days and reduced the season to 48 games. Eight years ago, Bettman cancelled an entire season with a Feb. 16 announcement. Now the two sides skate into more uncertainty.
There has been plenty of speculation that this lockout would elapse no longer than mid-December because both sides would not want to see the cancellation of the Winter Classic between the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs on Jan. 1, 2013.
The annual outdoor game has become the NHL's regular-season showpiece and the basis for the television deal with NBC. Nobody wants to miss the accompanying HBO 24/7 series, either.
Another possible lengthy battle
But we're not convinced this lockout will be over by then. The last time the NHL endured a lockout, the NHLPA and NHL waited three months before they sat across from each other in a meaningful bargaining session. The two sides seem to be set up for another lengthy battle.
What was evident from the past few days in Manhattan was the NHLPA and NHL have become entrenched in its positions. The two sides are not negotiating, just presenting versions of their proposals. Both sides are out for the big win, not working together to find a solution.
In the next few days and weeks, we'll read about different players scurrying off to find roster spots in Europe. Training camps were supposed to open on Friday. The regular season was supposed to open its door on Oct. 11. Instead, we'll see announcements that exhibition games and then regular-season games will be cancelled.
So many will lose with this latest labour dispute. Referees and linesmen won't be paid. Thousands of arena staff will miss out, too. Local businesses that thrive during the NHL season also will be out of luck. The dedicated hockey fan will have a void to fill.
But we're here to help. There's always plenty of daily action with Steve, Lloyd, Michelle, Eileen and the gang on Coronation Street. Okay, you don't like that one.
Well, the AHL will have some stud-filled lineups this season. We saw players like Jeff Skinner, Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins assigned to their AHL teams in the past two days. In the last lockout, Jason Spezza, Eric Staal and Mike Cammalleri thrived in the AHL and made them better when they returned to the NHL.
There also are the junior ranks and one of the most underrated levels of hockey, Canadian university. The 2013 Memorial Cup will be played in Saskatoon in May. It would be something if Nathan MacKinnon of the Halifax Mooseheads could lead his club to the championship tournament like his fellow Cole Harbour, N.S. resident, Sidney Crosby, did with the Rimouski Oceanic in 2004-05.
There are 34 Canadian university programs, one probably near you. Try it, you'll like it.
Sometimes the hockey fan just has to take on other sporting endeavours. After all, we're well-rounded people. The Ryder Cup only is a couple weekends away. The CFL and NFL are in full swing. Major League Baseball is down to its final three weeks and the playoffs begin soon.
Before long we'll find other undertakings. And, if or when, the NHL and NHLPA get around to sorting out their dysfunctional relationship, we'll come back.
We always do, don't we.
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