By Stu Hackel
Another day, another series of talks for the NHL and NHLPA : Day 110, to be precise, and while there have been some positive developments this week, there is still no certainty that an agreement is imminent or even assured in time to preserve a 48-game season. The supposed deadline for that is Jan. 11, with the schedule beginning on Jan. 19. Neither the deadline nor the puck drop can be guaranteed.
That’s because some outstanding issues — like the salary cap, pensions, and contract limits — remain and the sides are not close to agreeing on how to resolve them. There are new suspicions on both sides as well that have kept the anxiety level high. Both Gary Bettman and Don Fehr said after Wednesday’s marathon talks, which extended into early Thursday, that some progress had been made, but there were still some hard miles to travel.
UPDATE: As of Friday morning, Day 111, the two sides were conferring with a mediator and no formal bargaining session had been set.
UPDATE: As the clock ticked, there were no large-group negotiations Thursday afternoon or evening, only a small group session on the critical pension issue. The absence of talks on the core economic issues dividing the sides got ESPN.com’s Pierre LeBrun righteously agitated, writing, “The most embarrassing work stoppage in the history of pro sports has found a way once again to show it might also be the most irrational ever of its kind.” His piece is worth reading. And in The Winnipeg Free Press, Gary Lawless quoted a “veteran member of the NHL’s board of governors” saying the season’s cancellation is only a week away. Yahoo Puck Daddy’s Greg Wyshynski, for one, was not surprised by the story and had some salient observations on it which you can read here. Meetings are scheduled to resume Friday morning.