The NHL has canceled games through the month of October, but that's not necessarily a bad thing.
The NHL canceled more games Friday. All games through Nov. 1 have been wiped off the schedule, bringing the overall total to 135. That's bad, right?
No, not really.
See, here's the thing. We knew this was coming. We knew it was coming four days ago when the NHL said it was coming. Gary Bettman said on Tuesday in a statement released by the league that the best hope for the season was a Nov. 2 start. It may not have been official cancellation of games through that point, but hell, you can read it and figure it out yourself:
Specifically, in order to save the full 82-game season, the Regular Season schedule will have to commence no later than November 2, with 7-day Club Training Camps that must open by October 26. As a practical matter, this means we must conclude a new written CBA by October 25.
They left in there the possibility that the season could begin before Nov. 2, I guess, but that would have required outright acceptance by the NHLPA of the league's Tuesday proposal. That wasn't happening. The best-case scenario was always a Nov. 2 start with training camps opening on Friday the 26th.
Oh, and hey, guess what? That's still the best-case scenario.
The NHL canceled games through Nov. 1 today, meaning that as we sit presently, the puck is scheduled to drop come Nov. 2, just like we we've been hoping since Tuesday. That may well change in the next seven days, of course, but after Bettman laid our optimism down in a bath tub and slit its wrists on Thursday following the break off of talks, this should actually be seen as a good thing.
Think of all the dire thoughts we've had since Bettman and Donald Fehr stepped to the podium after the NHLPA submitted their three proposals Thursday. People have been saying that the season might be over, that there's no hope. The crafty rhetoric from Bettman and Fehr have only pushed us closer to the edge.
But when you cut through the spin from each side and take a look at the numbers, like James Mirtle at the Globe & Mail did Friday morning, it's pretty clear that the sides are a whole lot closer than they're letting on. They're speaking the same language and we know where their battle lines are drawn. There's the framework for a deal in the numbers, even if the rherotic says otherwise.
If things were as dire as Bettman claimed Thursday, why didn't the league cancel games deeper into the month of November? Why did they leave the door open for games to be played on Nov. 2? Why haven't they pressured the players with the cancellation of several more weeks of games? Or even the Winter Classic?
We've known for days -- weeks, even -- there was never going to be NHL hockey in October. The sides may very well cancel more games, and there's a really strong chance that we won't have an 82-game NHL season this year. That's not good, but given the hyperbole of the last 24 hours, that more games weren't cut from existence is good news.
There's still hope for hockey in November. Don't jump off the cliff just yet.