As 2012 draws to a close, we still don’t have hockey, but we can afford a bit of guarded optimism about having hockey early in 2013. Earlier today we held our collective breaths while Gary Bettman emerged from talks with the NHLPA to address the media – the history of these negotiations has conditioned us to expect the worst in moments like these. Instead, Bettman maintained his fair complexion (as opposed to the warm rouge he was sporting on December 6), and restrained himself from any barbs aimed at the NHLPA, and was, perhaps shockingly, cordial.
This morning, the NHLPA offered the NHL a counter-proposal to the proposal made late last week by the NHL. And more than anything in either of the actual proposals, it’s the demeanor of the respective party heads that cues us that perhaps, finally, it’s safe to be optimistic. It’s also safe to assume that we are finally, finally, finally out of the posturing stage of this fiasco and down to the actual negotiating.
Of course, fans are, and should be, furious that it’s taken till now to get to this point. Could we not have reached a similar deal than the one we’re inevitably heading toward back in October? Or did we really need to watch both sides push each other to the brink, waiting to see which would crack? Now that the brink has been arrived at, and we’re looking over the edge, it’s getting obvious that neither side is all that interested in taking the plunge. In other words, sanity has taken hold. Hey – there’s even some talk that if an agreement is reached soon enough, we could get 52 games rather than 48.
But if there’s one thing to take some comfort in, hockey fans, it’s that tonight, while the rest of us are surrounded by family and friends, Gary Bettman will be locked in a boardroom surrounded by lawyers, looking over the NHLPA’s proposal. And perhaps it’ll cross his mind that this could have been avoided had he gotten the deal done in October.