Nicole Del Villano
While October 25th may seem like any other Thursday in the month, to NHL fans it means a lot more. Thursday is the day the NHL and NHLPA have to reach an agreement in order to have a full 82-game season starting November 2nd.
With a lockout that began in mid-September, fans, players and owners alike have hoped that an agreement would have been made by this point in order to bring the league back. In a strange turn of events last Tuesday, the NHL offered a 50-50 split of revenues with the players and the details of this contract were even seen on many news reports. With most of the proceedings being behind closed doors, it was surprising to have this information come directly from the NHL instead of a source. So surprising in fact it could help but bring up the question among fans if it was only a publicity stunt.
Public outcry has not been something that has been hidden by NHL fans. Many fans take to twitter using hashtags such as #EndtheLockout, and #FireBettman, even forming new accounts with the most up to date news on any aspect of the lock out. It did not take long for someone to point out that maybe the NHL put this offer out there to make the NHLPA look bad to the fans for not accepting it. At first it seemed like an overreaction but as both sides later met, the NHL turned down all three counteroffers the NHLPA put on the table in a matter of minutes. All three counteroffers had a 50-50 revenue split but it seemed to be other aspects of the contracts that then had issues. League commissioner Gary Bettman left the meeting saying it seemed both sides were not even “speaking the same language”.
As the week progressed it became clear that neither side seemed to be speaking at all as they did not have another meeting set up to try and reach a deal. Granted, both sides have been in limited contact with each other via emails and phone calls and the NHL allowed general managers to talk to their players for a limited window of time, but it did not seem to go anywhere. The NHLPA sent an offer to meet for Wednesday or their unofficial deadline of Thursday, which the NHL promptly turned down. It soon turned into a game of finger pointing who was in the wrong from NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly and NHLPA counsel Steve Fehr through emails and phone calls to ESPN.
With both sides trying to make the other look back, neither side budging on their latest offers and a seemingly unwillingness to meet it is not looking promising for the hockey community. Many of the NHL players have signed to European teams since the lockout began but still look forward to having their own season. Owners have to fill their time with other aspects of life, as they are not in the beginning of another season. Lastly, fans have to deal with the rise and fall of hope throughout all of these negotiations. In the final hours until the unofficial deadline it is hard to see that there will be much of a change happening, but the hope is still in the fans.