With the lockout rapidly approaching, the NHL and NHL Players' Association are scheduled to meet today. It should go without saying that it's a crucial meeting.
If either side walks into the room with a proposal that the other views as ridiculous (which has been the case with every proposal so far), it's likely the league will steamroll toward Saturday's 11:59 p.m. expiration of the collective bargaining agreement without a new CBA.
Why? Because more than 250 players are headed to New York for meetings today and Thursday, and another insult hurled by the league would set off a Molotov cocktail and further enflame the players who can't believe the owners are trying to stick it to them again. Cooler heads in a gathering that large likely would not prevail.
Meanwhile, if the players don't budge on an offer, the cash-laden owners can sit back and say they've made proposals to benefit the sport and it's the players fault for not taking them. They'll shut things down and wait for the players to get an itch for paychecks.
Based on my chats with team employees, the owners are certain the union will crack again at some point. The thinking is the older players hoping for one more year won't want to waste another season, and younger players will just want to play. The union is a diverse group, and the league is sure it will eventually feature players seeking their own interests.
Of course, all that could be moot if the sides find some common ground during their chats today. Not too many people are counting on that.
"To this point, we have received no indication that the union has anything new to say to us. And right now, we have nothing new to say to them," Bill Daly, deputy commissioner of the NHL, wrote in an email to the Associated Press on Tuesday. "It's unfortunate, but it's the reality of the situation.
"Ultimately, we just want to negotiate a fair deal that will give all our clubs an ability to be stable and healthy. We hoped (and still hope) we can do that without causing any interruption to the upcoming season. Logic would have suggested we would have been able to. The fact that we haven't yet is extremely disappointing, and is a failure for which we both must share blame."