OUT OF PLAY: Both sides, including the NHLPA led by Don Fehr, are willing to let another NHL season become collateral damage if it means getting what they want. Photo courtesy Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

If you were hoping the new NHL season would start as scheduled, it’s certainly not looking good.

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman has been adamant that a lockout would begin immediately if a new labor deal is not reached by the time the current Collective Bargaining Agreement expires at midnight. This leaves less than 24 hours for both sides to hash out ALL of their differences.

Simply put, that’s just not going to happen. At this rate, the Houston Astros have a better chance of NOT reaching the 100-loss plateau than the NHL has of avoiding another work stoppage. If there was a new NHL CBA by midnight tonight, the bar for what qualifies as a “miracle” in sports will have been raised.

NO HOCKEY LEAGUE: That may be what the NHL soon stands for as Gary Bettman says a lockout will begin immediately if a new CBA is not signed before the current one expires. Photo courtesy Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

This isn’t to say the players haven’t been trying to avoid a lockout. This past week the NHLPA fired a grievance against the league with the Quebec Labor Board. Their concept was simple: since the QLB did not officially recognize the NHL as a worker’s union, the members of the Montreal Canadiens could not be locked out by their employer. And, if Montreal wasn’t locked out, maybe no one would be. It was a gimmicky tactic that, naturally, the QLB didn’t go for as they ruled in the league’s favor.

The obvious gripe here is that both sides seem to be exhausting all their options to “one-up” the other side and spending very little time actually trying to come to a new agreement.

It’s a song and dance that sports fans are utterly tired of. The NFL went into a lockout, the NBA went into a lockout and the MLB, by pushing through a new CBA almost problem-free, quickly became the exception to the rule. The scary thing here is that the NHL might be worse off than all three combined.

If — sorry, WHEN — this lockout occurs, it will be the FOURTH work stoppage in the NHL in 20 years. Every time a CBA expires, it seems the two sides work themselves into a jam only to hash out a temporary solution that leaves them back at square one whenever the current contract expires. It’s always a shortsighted approach to a long-term problem that professional hockey just can’t seem to escape.

This current Collective Bargaining Agreement, of course, was created in the wake of the 2005 lockout when an entire NHL season was cancelled. I don’t think we’re there quite yet, but time is quickly running out for the new hockey season to begin as planned.

The first preseason games are scheduled for just eight days from now and the first regular season games are scheduled for October 11th. Given that neither side, as of today, seems even interested in just sitting down and beginning negotiations, I would be shocked if this hockey season starts on time.

But maybe it shouldn’t. In fact, I KNOW it shouldn’t if it means one thing: a long-term solution. Let the players union and the league play their little game of trying to seem like the good guys while simultaneously working to get everything they want. Let one more hockey season begin a couple of months late. Heck, let one last hockey season even be CANCELLED.

If it means we don’t have to do this for AT LEAST another fifteen or twenty years, I can’t see how it wouldn’t be worth it.

NOTE: This story was originally published on SportsHead. To read this article and others click here.
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