The National Hockey League might be mere hours away from the first announcement of called-off regular-season games.
(No one wants to say "cancel," because the league seems to think it can still get 82 games in. That's a farce, though, as we're all well aware.)
The league and locked-out players met for plenty of hours over the weekend for there to be some semblance of progress. However, none was reported.
More of the same came on Tuesday, when NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly told reporters that the players weren't willing to compromise.
Oddly enough, the players seem to think the owners don't want to compromise, either.
Weird how that works, eh?
So you have a dispute where each side is accusing the other of not wanting to compromise. Meanwhile, the league has already called off the preseason, something Daly said will cost the NHL some $100 million in revenue.
(It helps immensely that players are given only modest stipends during the preseason. It's almost nothing but profit for the league and its 30 owners. Could be safe to assume that most players weren't upset about the cancellation of the preseason whatsoever.)
Next up are games that count, and the loss of those will mean heavier losses for all sides involved.
While the players and owners fight over their $3.3 billion of revenue – and risk losing a chunk of it if they don't stop fighting over it – fans just sit and shake their heads.
Of course, the league has already taken its fanbase for granted. Since the fans came back in droves after the 2004-2005 season was canceled by a lockout, commissioner Gary Bettman seems to have surmised that it will happen the same way this time around, no matter how much of the 2012-13 season ends up being lost.
It's hard to understand the rhetoric. The sides are convinced that they are living the definition of insanity – doing the same thing over and over again, expecting a different result – by continuing to meet when the other side doesn't want anything to do with a compromise.
Obviously, the league is in trouble here if both sides are telling the truth. If neither the owners nor the Players Association are willing to meet somewhere in the neighborhood of the middle, the league will probably not have a season, at least not one that starts anytime soon.
Perhaps attitudes change once money is lost. As I already mentioned, the NHL players don't get paid during the preseason, outside of a stipend. If they get their escrow money in October as expected, that means it will be closer to the end of the month before they completely miss a paycheck. And, of course, some of them are playing overseas and drawing income from that. It isn't the same income, but it's income, and it might keep some from trying to push their fellow members for a deal as quickly as they normally would.
Meanwhile, the owners might have lost $100 million on the cancellation of the preseason, but that's a whopping 3 percent of revenue for the whole season. You and I might scrounge sometimes, but if you have 50 dollars in your pocket, and $1.50 falls through a hole and onto the ground, never to be seen again, I doubt it would be the end of the world.
However, once regular-season games start disappearing, teams will begin to feel it a little bit more. Many more will start laying off employees or drastically cutting their pay. Those teams will face public-relations hits, since it's not like the lockout was initiated by the players or something, and Bettman insists he has unanimous support for this.
All of this is grasping at straws, but perhaps something happens along the way in the next month that forces the two sides back to the table for substantive discussions.
Oh, and you should also remember that – as unproductive as they have been – there have been more talks in the last month than there were for the first couple months of the lockout last time around. They might not be agreeing, but at least they're speaking.
Now, about that progress thing ...