Tonight could have been the start of something special for the Washington Capitals.
It could have been the NHL head coaching debut of elected Hockey Hall of Famer Adam Oates, going head-to-head against his former team, the New Jersey Devils, and his former head coach, Peter DeBoer.
It could have been a classic showdown between Russian snipers Alex Ovechkin and Ilya Kovalchuk and a chance for fans to see ways Oates has impacted both of their games.
It could have been a new chapter in the Braden Holtby story, a feel-good novel that captivated Caps fans last spring with one spectacular playoff performance after another.
It could have been a chance for veteran center Mike Ribeiro to dazzle fans with no-look passes that brought them out of their seats.
It could have been a chance for 18,506 fans to Rock The Red like they did in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Rangers when they staved off elimination with a thrilling 2-1 victory.
Instead, the corner of F and 6 Street will be eerily quiet tonight. No block party in front of The Green Turtle. No music playing at the entrance to the Metro.
No hockey in the nation’s capital.
And it may be a long time before that changes.
Today marks Day 27 of the NHL lockout and after negotiations between representatives of the NHL and its players broke off Thursday without proposals from either side, there is a real possibility the entire 2012-13 season is in peril
"It's a disappointment, there is no way around that," NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly told reporters Thursday. "I certainly hoped and would have expected we would be in a different place today. I would've expected we would've had an agreement, I would've expected we would have been dropping the puck.
"In retrospect, I look back at it, and while we were all hopeful during the course of the summer that there was plenty of time to get a deal done, maybe the fault lies in the fact that we didn't start negotiations until June 29. That goes back to the level of urgency maybe with the players' association and not being prepared to have those discussions."
Not surprisingly, NHLPA special counsel Steve Fehr disagreed, saying the only proposal the NHL will entertain from the players is one that contains immediate rollbacks in player salaries.
"For most of the last few weeks, unless it was on their terms, unless we've had a proposal they don't seem very interested in discussing the core economics," Fehr said. "Let's keep in mind that they are the ones who started this with a request for a 24 per cent rollback, which they've inched back a little, in addition to putting proposals on the table that would severely limit and curtail player contracting rights which had the predictable result of provoking players.”
With $100 million in revenue already lost due to the cancellation of the preseason and another $150 million lost with the cancellation of the first two weeks of the regular season, both sides seem willing to wait each other out.
“At some point we've got to see a willingness from the players' association to compromise,” Daly said, “because they haven't shown any willingness to compromise at this point.”