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NHL lockout 2012: Thursday a crucial day in CBA talks

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If CBA talks go south on Thursday, the optimism of the last several days will evaporate, and more hockey games will likely go with it.

Andy Marlin

The NHLPA will present a counter-proposal to the NHL in CBA talks on Thursday, and the direction of that proposal should give us a good sense of the fate of the 2012-13 NHL season. Talks between the league and the union will begin at 1 p.m. ET at the NHLPA's Toronto headquarters, and it won't be long until we learn the details of their counter.

Those details will be vital.

There's no doubt that the union wasn't completely pleased with the NHL's offer on Tuesday, and in general, they still believe they shouldn't have to give a single dime back to the league's owners on pure principle. But it's widely believed that if the union doesn't at least work off of that proposal, the full NHL season is in jeopardy and huge chunks of games will be canceled -- potentially even "marquee events," as the league threatened Wednesday. You can read into that one.

No matter which side you believe or support, any further delay in serious negotiations will put hockey in jeopardy, and if the news is all negative after talks Thursday, we could begin hearing about a "drop dead" date for cancellation of the season. For now, the full season is still a possibility, but it's a very fine line between that, the cancellation of games into the New Year and the potential loss of the entire season.

The NHL has said that a new deal needs to be negotiated by Oct. 26 for a full 82-game season to begin on Nov. 2, and while eight more days of meetings could bring a resolution if both sides are serious, it seems unlikely that the deadline will be met. Still, November or December hockey could be in the cards if the NHLPA responds Thursday with a proposal that moves the process forward.

If Don Fehr & Co. take a step back and fail to put forth a proposal that moves negotiations towards a solution, the optimism of the last several days will float away, and more hockey games will likely go with it.