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Where There's a Will, There's a CBA

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I have often been told that I can be too positive when it comes to a certain Vancouver hockey club, and to that I do sort of plead guilty. Sue me, its the way I am wired. Call it a survival instinct of a lifetime Canuck fan. ( I doubt that any jury would not be hung after hearing my case though. Forty one years!!! ) But after watching the interviews, analysis, and yet more analysis of today's back and forth, I actually feel some positivity about seeing hockey start soon.

Maybe not right on time, but to this hockey fan, I just don't see the doom and gloom as much as some. If I had to pick a side, its going to be the players, but everything is a negotiation, and like I have said before, I totally understand a league wanting to have a 50/50 revenue split. I just don't see why they can't get a deal done.

OK. There are plenty of reasons for the doom and gloomers to rule the day, and I am sure talk radio throughout Canada will be rife with plenty of handwringing.

They will point to Gary Bettman's bellicoseness, his standing by his September 15th line in the sand, and his subtle and not so subtle threats. How he put a time limit on his latest offer ( with some real Oscar winning mealymouth bullshit about how "once there is damage to the game...". Thats pretty rich coming from the guy that has presided over lockout after lockout, and has damaged the game several times along the way ), and how they are "still far apart".

Now that you are quivering a bit, talking about Donald Fehr won't make you feel any better, right? He talked today about how its "always a lockout" that is the owners go to in any sport, and how they are willing to give to get a deal done, but that the players simply do not want to give anywhere close to the 24% rollback that happened the last time.

The thing is though, hockey fans, that for all the back and forth, for all the threats and whatnot through the media, for all the agita that comes from reading things like how the NHL wants to change all sorts of things they see as not working, both sides are working on proposals that are WITHIN A CURRENT SYSTEM. This is not anywhere close to the last time this happened, when a Cap was something that was being fought. A structural change that profound was something the league demanded and eventually got, after denying us our hockey fix for an entire season.

Now, we are dealing with quibbles about "hockey related revenue", and tweeks to the basic system. Some of them are big tweeks, to be fair, and time is supposedly drawing short. ( Though its important to mention that no matter how seriously Gary Bettman has worked towards the 15th of September, Fehr and the players have always expressed a willingness to work while they negotiate ).

Simply put, they are not reinventing the wheel. They are just trying to decide how to best replace a flat or two. Of course, all this goes above our pay grade, and there are real and serious issues to work through. The players, by all accounts, have said "no effing way" to a rollback of salary like last time, for instance.

But come on. Today, the NHL was throwing around numbers like 1.87 Billion as the players current share of HRR, which was said to be approximately 3.3 Billion. Saying how the current proposal only lowers that to 1.7 Billion ( ONLY!? Sheesh huh, talking about numbers that are similar to the GDP of small countries as "only" seems weird ). The fact that there was big movement on the % from the original offer of 43% to closer to around 48% is significant. The players have moved down from their number of 57% to closer to 53%.

That is real movement folks. That is negotiating. Sure, the doomsayers, and even the Bob McKenzies of the world will point out that it seems to be that the proposals are movement to each sides' last offer instead of on one communal idea that can be worked towards.

Trust this long time hockey fan though. That is light years ahead of the last few times these things came up, especially at the point where "time is short". Hell, last time, there were no real meetings as the last two weeks wound down, and frustrated fans of the best hockey league on the planet watched obtuseness and belligerence replace substantive talk as the clock struck midnight and the season started turning into a pumpkin.

So, take heart. Now comes the big players meeting, and the Board of Governors get together. No matter what various media types will tell you, there will be real differences of opinion in those meetings. A chance for pressures to be put upon, rich teams to remind weak teams just who is paying for them to sign that resident superstar, as well as hawkish players being reminded of reality by pragmatists.

Personally, I see there being one last big push before the arbitrary deadline. Whether that ends up in a deal or not is beyond me. Perhaps there ends up being a lockout after all. But I sincerely do not believe that. If there is, I don't think that we are dealing with anything but a short delay.

There is just too much money involved, and the league has grown by far too much since the last deal was signed. Both sides know that. You couple that with a big money TV deal, a league that looks to be finally breaking through the "niche" status on TV in the United States, and the huge money and sponsor bonanza that is the looming Winter Classic, and there is simply too much to lose, and too much motivation to get a deal done. Hell, this is the biggest WC ever, and the first between two teams from the two countries that make up the league.

You think they want to screw THAT up? Hell no. Chin up hockey fans. Its always darkest before the dawn.