It’s possible that Jeremy Jacobs (right), the Bruins’ hardline owner, saw the moderate’s revolt coming and gave ground. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
By Stu Hackel
With owners and players holed up in a midtown New York hotel, it appears that real progress to end the 81 Day NHL lockout is being made for the first time. The elongated and excruciating process that brought us to this point, where there is finally movement off entrenched positions and toward agreement, has taken its toll on everyone — owners, players, fans, arena workers, bar and restaurant personnel, sponsors, licensees and even the media. “People are absolutely miserable,” Elliotte Friedman wrote in a CBC.ca column on Tuesday, sounding as if even he was ready to throw himself headlong into traffic on the 401.
Almost no one, it seemed, held out hope that the owners-players meetings without Gary Bettman and Don Fehr would yield any progress, and I was among the hopeless. Of course, there’s no deal yet and there won’t be until both parties find ways to agree on some pretty sticky matters. In fact, a number of observers continue to express extreme caution, as SI’s Sarah Kwak does here, and with good reason. Pierre LeBrun of TSN and ESPN tweeted prior to Wednesday evening’s talks, “Warm and fuzzy feelings from last night are gone. Things are tense heading into tonight’s meeting. Pivotal session that will tell the tale.”
Here are the updates from TSN and USA Today heading into Thursday evening’s talks with Don Fehr and Gary Bettman returning and crunch time upon us. “I can tell you there’s been a hugely negative vibe emanating from both sides right now,” TSN’s Bob McKenzie tweeted. “Keeping this process on rails today will be challenging.”
But when Maple Leafs owner Larry Tannenbaum, one of the owners currently negotiating with the players says, as he did Wednesday afternoon, “We’re going to continue to talk up until we get a deal,” that is a vastly different sentiment from what we heard from both sides for the last five months, which was more along the lines of “We’re not hearing what we want, so we’re not talking.”
What has changed from earlier this week? On Monday, few, if any, gave credence to Steve Burton of WBZ-TV in Boston when he reported on Monday night that secret high-level meetings over the weekend led to progress and the lockout could be over as soon as Tuesday or Wednesday.