Slip Sliding Away

The NHL announced the cancellation of all games until the end of 2012 today.  That means they have cancelled around 40% of the season. Yet they still won’t have constructive dialogue. Last week, the NHL owners pulled their proposal and currently no talks are scheduled. The real question now is when is the date that this absolutely has to be settled by?  “Luckily”, the NHL has already given us plenty of previous examples to go by.

In 1994-95 the NHL resolved the lockout on January 11th, 1995 and proceeded with a 48-game regular season with no inter-conference play.

In 2004-05 the NHL cancelled the entire season on February 16th, 2005.

So, despite Gary Bettman’s pronouncements that this has to be resolved soon or the season will disappear, I think we have at least one month and possibly two for this to drag on. If the two sides reached a deal on say February 1st, they could conceivably start playing by February 15th and get a 48-game season in by the first week of May. It wouldn’t be pretty and the hockey would be abysmal on some nights, but they could do it.

One sticking point will be the conference alignments. In 1995, they abandoned inter-conference play and just had the teams from each conference play each other. The problem now is Winnipeg is part of the Eastern Conference and it wouldn’t be fair for them to have to fly to Boston, New York, etc. to play their games in a truncated season.

So, I expect that one of the final issues the league will decide is conference alignment.  The league had a proposal in 2011 that made a lot of sense, but the NHLPA didn’t allow it to go forward. They will probably have to this time, but there are a lot of bigger hurdles to cross before we get to that.

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