LOCKOUT: Day Thirty-One – Could it be over?


March 27, 2011; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara (33) reacts after a goal by Boston Bruins right wing Shawn Thornton (not pictured) during the first period against the Tampa Bay Lightning at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-US PRESSWIRE

For the last two weeks, I’ve been arguing that whoever blinks first will likely provide a solution to the walkout.  To be honest, I was afraid that it was going to be the players and the NHLPA. I don’t think I have ever been so happy to be wrong about hockey in my life. Today, Gary Bettman (after being visited by the ghosts of lockouts past, present, and future) went to the NHLPA with an offer. The offer is essentially a 50-50 split of HRR (hockey related revenue). Furthermore, it allows for the playing of the ENTIRE 2012-2013 season.

Bettman even sweetened the deal by offering the players’ union no rollback on all current contracts. So, all the insane big money deals would be worth every crazy penny they signed for. Is it everything the players asked for?  No, but for a league that was willing to kill the season a scant two weeks ago, it’s a big enough concession to declare this a limited player victory.  The players weren’t counting on seeing fifty-seven percent again. (Quite a few players had argued that an even distribution was acceptable– as soon as both sides could agree to what ‘HRR’ was.) So, the big question is now this: Why did the NHL pull a strategic one hundred and eighty degree turn around?  For the love of the game? Hardly.  To further avoid the ire of the fans who nearly to a person believe this whole mess is the fault of ownership? Unlikely.

Truth very likely is that some of those teams on the brink were looking at a partial or total collapse. Eighteen teams lost money last year. If the current economic indicators remain the same, it is very likely half the league will be in the red this year. (No worries, Bruins Nation.  The only way the Bruins could lose money is if we became the new Quebec Nordiques or whatever team ends up moving to Seattle.) There were enough owners to force a vote or to at least make a very ugly PUBLIC stink about the state of the negotiations. The league’s reputation was falling into ruin and an open schism could have driven the league into chaos. Something that Jeremy Jacobs did not want connected to his name.

“We very much want to preserve a full eighty-two game season and in that light we made a proposal, an offer really,” NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said. “It is our best shot at preserving an eighty-two game regular season and [Stanley Cup] Playoffs.” Bettman announced the proposal after he and Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly held an hour-long meeting with the National Hockey League Players’ Association Executive Director Don Fehr and Special Counsel Steve Fehr at the Union office.

”I’d like to believe, after we are done [reviewing] this [offer], that it’s an excellent starting point and there’s a deal to be made,” said Donald Fehr, the NHLPA executive director. I’m sure the Fehrs will be spending the next few hours, into Tuesday evening, assessing the offer and contacting their constituency. Bettman and Daly have told Fehr that they are ”on call” for any questions, comments, or clarifications.  Now, if this all works out (according to the Bettman model) the season could start as early as November 2nd. To make the season work, they would have to take on extra games to complete the season. (The Bettman model does have a proviso for a seventy-six game season as well.)OK, now I wonder if I’m going to wake up and find out that this is all a dream.

Fingers crossed Bruins fans. It might be over. It seriously might be over. I for one want to stop writing about the lockout, and see the Black and Gold rescue the Stanley Cup.