Bruins players remaining in Boston are starting to run low on optimism, understandably, but theyre mustering up whatever theyve got left for todays big NHL powwow in New York City.
A group of six NHL owners including Bostons Jeremy Jacobs, Torontos Larry Tanenbaum, Pittsburghs Ron Burkle, Calgarys Murray Edwards, Winnipegs Mark Chipman and Tampa Bays Jeff Vinik are set to meet with a currently unspecified group of players that reportedly will include Sidney Crosby and Jonathan Toews.
Both NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and NHLPA Executive Director Donald Fehr will be taking a step back from the face-to-face negotiations, and the hope is that a couple of different things take place. First there is optimism that new voices among the owners negotiating will bring a different vibe to the CBA process, and theres also the simple hope that frank face-to-face discussions between owner and player will produce some traction in the talks.
The 18 NHLPA members attending the negotiation session are: Craig Adams, David Backes, Michael Cammalleri, Sidney Crosby, B.J. Crombeen, Mathieu Darche, Shane Doan, Ron Hainsey, Shawn Horcoff, Jamal Mayers, Manny Malhotra, Andy McDonald, Ryan Miller, George Parros, Brad Richards, Martin St. Louis, Jonathan Toews and Kevin Westgarth.
Perhaps two people with a tight playerowner relationship like CrosbyBurkle can bridge the gap between the two sides: a sum of 182 million in the make whole provision and a number of player contract rights chief among the issues that leave the players and owners in a stalemate.
Im hopeful," Milan Lucic, who attended a Tuesday morning informal skate with some of his Bruins teammates. "Ive been trying to stay optimistic this whole time that well have hockey this year and today is no different. As players weve stayed strong as a union and I dont think thats going to change whether the executive guys are in the room or not.
Our message has been clear the whole time and hopefully this is light at the end of the tunnel. I think new voices are a positive. Youve got the Pittsburgh owners in there and Im pretty sure Crosby is going to be one of the guys in the negotiating room. Im pretty sure they already have a relationship, so hopefully they can work together to help this cause. There will be some big-name guys in there that know whats going on, and hopefully theyll work something out to salvage the season.
Thornton was equally hopeful that the unconventional playersowners setting for Tuesdays meeting will lead to something significant with a Dec. 5 Board of Governors meeting looming on Wednesday. Its believed if things dont go well on Tuesday that the NHL owners will put a timeline in place to possibly cancel the entire 2012-13 season if no progress is reached soon.
Were all hopeful that is a genuine effort by the league to achieve some progress. It was their idea to put this together, so lets see what they have to say, said Thornton. Its getting late into the game on all of this stuff now, so we dont have a lot of time left to negotiate. Hopefully today leads to some real negotiating and a finished deal.
The meeting is set to start around 2 p.m., so all NHL fans, observers, players and owners alike should know by the end of the day whether or not the prospect of a shortened hockey season just got a little rosier.