Since the start of the NHL lockout in mid-September, I carried the same mindset as guys like Mike Ribeiro, Mike Knuble and Jason Chimera.
I figured Gary Bettman and the league’s 30 owners had a date in mind for getting the player concessions necessary for the long-term financial health of the league. Once that date arrived, the owners would accept the best the players had to offer, declare the lockout lifted and resume operations with a season of 50-55 games.
The date I had in mind was Dec. 20.
Like Ribeiro and Knuble and Chimera, I was dead wrong.
Today marks the 96th day of a lockout that should have ended weeks ago. I get the fact that too many NHL teams are losing money. I get it that the players’ salaries rose at a rate that became unmanageable. I even get that a work stoppage was necessary to get the league’s financial house in order.
But I don’t get this week.
I don’t get how a players’ union can take five days to decide it doesn’t want to be a union.
I don’t get how – with Christmas less than a week away – Bettman and Don Fehr are not in a locked room screaming at each other until they can agree on a nine-year CBA with contract limits of seven years and a 15 percent variance on those contracts from year to year.
Truth be told, I don’t get Bettman and Fehr. Period.
For three months I have stood by the belief that logic would win this war. That by Dec. 20, Bettman would stand in front of TV cameras, beg fans for forgiveness, and announce the NHL would return on the weekend after Christmas better than ever.
Instead, the NHL and what remains of it players’ union is destined to go this entire week without as much as a meaningful phone call. And that should disgust everyone who loves the game of hockey.
The thought of NHL teams back on the ice by New Year’s Day is now fool’s gold. The idea of playing anything more than a 50-game schedule no longer exists.
It is entirely possible that before the end of this week, the NHL will cancel games through the first week of January, adding to the 526 games that have already been wiped away.
By then, the best the NHL could hope for is a start date around Jan. 15. By then, the anger fans have harbored toward the NHL for the past three months will be replaced by apathy.
And that could be the league’s worst nightmare. That when they come back, no one will notice.