Ask just about anyone involved with the NHL players’ association and you hear the same thing: When Gary Bettman is ready to strike a deal to end the lockout, now in its 62nd day, he’ll return to the bargaining table.
But not a second sooner.
That seemed evident late Thursday night when TSN analyst and former player Aaron Ward tweeted that Bettman “floated the idea” of a two-week moratorium on talks with the NHLPA.
That tells you just how far apart the owners and players are after meeting six straight days last week in New York, only to see both sides storm away from the bargaining table. The NHL already has canceled all games through November and next week are expected to extend those cancellations through mid-December.
NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly characterized the owners feeling late Thursday night when he told TSN, “We are extremely disappointed in where we and the players find ourselves. And from our perspective, we have made repeated moves in the players’ direction with absolutely no reciprocation.
“Unfortunately, we have determined we are involved with union leadership that has no genuine interest in reaching an agreement. Regardless of what we propose, or how we suggest to compromise, the answer is ‘no.’ At some point you just have to say, ‘enough is enough.’”
Care to guess what the NHLPA had to say in response? In a statement released by special counsel Steve Fehr, here is the players’ reply:
“We believe that it is more likely that we will make progress if we meet than if we don’t,” Fehr wrote. “So we are ready to meet. If indeed they do not want to meet, it will be at least the third time in the last three months that they have shut down the dialogue, saying they will not meet unless the players meet their preconditions.
“What does that tell you about their interest in resolving this?”
It tells me that we can all enjoy a long weekend of football before even thinking about seeing hockey anytime before Christmas.