For the NHL and its players there was finally a small flash of optimism on Tuesday. A lockout that just entered its second month, and which most of the United States has tuned out so far, continues. Regular-season games have been postponed. But after a gathering between the major figures on both sides in Toronto, there is a sense that a resolution is in sight.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, after meeting with Donald Fehr, the NHL Players' Association executive director, said there is a window to hammer out a deal and get the league started again by Nov. 2 with the full 82-game season saved. That optimism was fueled by a proposal from ownership to split the league's hockey-related revenues 50-50. That's a far cry from the league's initial stance that players should take 43 percent immediately.
Now, the NHLPA is reviewing the proposal and will likely counter quickly. But remember -- players currently get 57 percent of hockey-related revenue. Bettman claimed his proposal will not roll back salaries -- something that did happen during the 2004-05 lockout, which wiped out an entire season and left a generation of players bitter. It remains to be seen if Fehr and the NHLPA are comfortable the deal doesn't take money out of their pockets in hidden ways.
But don't get bogged down in the major details. That's the NHLPA and the NHL's job. The big news is the two sides have "nine or 10 days to put this all to bed," according to Bettman. If they pull it off then training camps would start soon and last no more than a week. It's the last, best shot at a full season of hockey.
"If we didn't do it now, then it probably wasn't going to happen for a while," Bettman said of the negotiations.
The Capitals just so happen to have a home game at Verizon Center on Nov. 2 against the Boston Bruins -- the club they eliminated in a dramatic seven-game Stanley Cup playoff series last spring. For now, key players like Alex Ovechkin (Russia), Brooks Laich (Switzerland) and Michal Neuvirth (Czech Republic) are still plying their trade in Europe. It might not be too much longer until they're back in the U.S.
- Brian McNally