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NHL lockout 2012: CBA talks fall off cliff as owners pull proposal from table

One side thought it was a negotiation. The other did not. And that's how we're back to an apparent Square One in NHL lockout talks.

Bruce Bennett

How did NHL lockout talks suddenly fall off a cliff on Thursday?

One side thought it was still a negotiation, while the other side felt that their offer was "take it or leave it."

Not even 30 minutes after Donald Fehr illustrated the latest NHLPA CBA proposal, which seemed to bridge the remaining gap on nearly every issue separating the two sides, Gary Bettman, Bill Daly and the NHL popped the balloon in an instant.

And because the NHLPA tried to negotiate off of the league's latest offer, Bettman and the owners have taken much of it off the table. Simply put, the owners believe they have made their best offer, and they're frustrated that the players do not see things the same way.

The commissioner said that the entire concept of "make whole" is now off the table, and that a five-year limit on contract terms is an issue that's vitally important to owners.

Bettman was the angriest and most emotional he's ever been in public, and it's clear that there's a ton of vitriol between the two sides. But even in that light, much of the talk from both Bettman and Fehr seems to be posturing -- at least in part.

How much " tough bargaining" there can be when the league has seemingly taken much of their offer off the table remains to be seen. It's unclear what's still out there to be negotiated on or how much of this is posturing versus reality.

Decertification of the players' union or a disclaimer of interest now seems like the next step. Bettman says that the NHL's Board of Governors has been briefed on that subject and that they are prepared for it.

So, we wait.