Bettman holds key to ending lockout

Bettman holds key to ending lockout
December 5, 2012, 9:45 am
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Is the NHL on the brink of salvaging the 2012-13 season?

Could there be hockey at Verizon Center by the start of January?

Should Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom and Brooks Laich start packing their bags for a long-awaited return home?

We may know sometime today.

After having what union special counsel Steve Fehr called “the best day” of negotiating since the lockout began 81 days ago, the NHL and its players returned to the bargaining table in New York at about 9:30 a.m. today for what could be the most crucial few hours of the NHL work stoppage.

Spearheaded by Penguins captain Sidney Crosby and Penguins part-owner Ron Burkle, the owners and players made significant progress in 10 hours of meetings on Tuesday and returned to bargaining table again Wednesday, sans NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and NHLPA executive director Don Fehr.

“I thought it was a constructive day, we had a good dialogue,” Fehr told reporters after the two sides ended talks after midnight early Wednesday morning. “In some ways I’d say it might be the best day we've had, which isn't to paint too overly optimistic of a picture. There's still a lot of work to do and a lot to be done, but we will be back at it (Wednesday) morning.”

Following the morning negotiating session, which is being attended by six NHL owners and 18 players, along with NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly and Steve Fehr, the NHL Board of Governors will gather for a meeting scheduled for 11 a.m.

It is very possible the NHL owners will take a vote on whether to end the lockout, continue negotiations, cancel more games or cancel the season.  

For the first time since the lockout began on Sept. 15, the first two options may be the most realistic.

An announcement by Bettman is scheduled for later today.

“I think everybody is working hard,” Daly said early Wednesday morning. “I think everybody wants to get a deal done, so I think that's encouraging.”

The owners were represented by chairman of the Board of Governors, Jeremy Jacobs of the Boston Bruins. He was joined by Murray Edwards of the Calgary Flames, Jeff Vinik of the Tampa Bay Lightning, Mark Chipman of the Winnipeg Jets, Larry Tanenbaum of the Maple Leafs and Burkle.

Many believe the presence of Burkle and Crosby, who arrived in New York on the same plane, might have broken the ice in Tuesday’s negotiations, where both sides reportedly made significant concessions that could lead to an agreement.

But perhaps the greatest impetus in the labor talks is the calendar. Unlike the 1994-95 lockout, when a 48-game season began on Jan. 20, many believe the drop-dead date to start an abbreviated 2012-13 season is Jan. 1.

If that’s the case, a deal would need to be in place by Dec. 15, just 10 days from now, to allow players to return from Europe, begin a week-long training camp and begin play by the first week of January.

For the first time in a very long time, that appears to be a very real possibility.

Are you a believer or still very much in doubt? And would you come back? Join the conversation below: