The third of the union/management get togethers came to an end after about four hours on Thursday night and by all reports, the two sides are no nearer an agreement; let alone an understanding than they were a week ago.
Yes indeed the traveling road show, known as NHL/NHLPA negotiations headed for the Big Apple on Thursday, as the two sides gathered to re-hash points surely they've explored to death by now. The meeting began at 4:30 and by 8:30 it was off for dinner and maybe a show, neither side saying much, but neither side suggesting that they were going to meet again anytime soon.
Wednesday's sessions in Toronto took on farcial tones, as the two sides spent more time huddled up with each other on opposite sides of the room than they did actively seeking an end to the impasse that has brought the league to its knees.
The rumours making the rounds these days have the league offering up a two cap system, with a soft cap at 38 million and a hard cap at 50 million. Teams that went over the soft cap would have to pay a luxury tax on a dollar per dollar basis. There also would apparently be a possibility of each team declaring a franchise player, one immune from the ravages of capped payrolls.
Taking bits of the NFL, some NBA ideas and possibly even a bit of Major league Baseball, the NHL is looking to bring about it's cost certainty in the laboratory of fiscal prudence. The only drawback from a league point of view is the unlikely possibility of the players accepting any kind of hard cap that limits their earning potential.
And with that, the two sides are back to where we started at in September. Four more hours wasted today, one wonders how much of that was actually spent in an exchange of ideas and how much was spent making the same tired old points over and over again.
Realistically they've had ten years to try and get this thing right, instead they waited until the very last moment, with the very last words to be issued likely to be season is cancelled. A definitive comment on the stewardship of the game by Mr. Bettman and Mr. Goodenow. Spare us anymore of these posturing moments disguised as secret negotiations, NHLPA director Ted Saskin said two key words today "philosophical differences" they tell us all we need to know about the state of today's gathering.
Those two words probably sum up the futility of future meetings by the principles and future breathless waiting by those of us who still actually follow the game. The faint flicker of hope from earlier in the week, has given way to a giant dark grey cloud ready to open up and rain down on all of us.
It's time for us to come in from the rain, let the owners and players stay out if they wish. Call us if you have something tangible to report, otherwise leave us alone. It's perfectly clear that the fans are the last item of interest from these two sides, it's all about them, them, them. We hope they're very happy together!