The only thing that will push negotiations is a sense of urgency from one side. Until that sense of urgency happens, we will be seeing a lot of meetings about non-core financial issues, lots of meetings with no progress, and lots of statements to the press about how the other side won’t budge from their “outrageous demands.”
The question that everyone is asking is, “When will they make progress?” But the question should be, “When will urgency kick in?”
Urgency will settle in for the league when NBC comes calling a month before they are set to broadcast the November 23 game between the Rangers and Bruins. While it is just one game, and the only game on NBC before the Winter Classic, it’s the first time a major corporate sponsor will begin to get on the phone and pressure the league to make a deal.
However it goes deeper than just NBC pushing the league. Let’s remember that NBC is owned by Comcast. Comcast is owned by Ed Snider. Ed Snider owns the Philadelphia Flyers. It’s all connected. Snider is a big market owner and can use that weight –the weight of losing money with both the Flyers and NBC– to begin to sway his colleagues into making a deal.
If the rumors of a divided ownership is true, which would include my assumptions about Jim Dolan, then adding one more big market owner to the no-lockout side could be a crushing blow to Gary Bettman and those in favor of the lockout.
But let’s remember that Black Friday may be the first game, but it would take a deal by November 1 to make sure that November 23 is opening night. Teams will need 2-3 days to get everyone back to camp, then another 1-2 weeks for camp. That already brings us to the weekend before Thanksgiving. This leaves room for one or two preseason games per club, and another day (Thanksgiving Day) to set rosters.
But before all that can happen, there needs to be pressure. Pressure will force negotiations. Nothing will happen before pressure settles in. Such is life in a lockout.