By the time Donald Fehr announced the players' proposal had been rejected and Gary Bettman went all Mr. Angry Pants in his press conference, Backes had left — and was left baffled.
"It's a kick in the groin where we went from Thursday at 3 until Thursday at 10 p.m," Backes said. "But I was optimistic and I guess I still am. Ebbs and flows, I guess. We'll all see where it goes."
Part of that kick to the groin: That by the third day of talks, the "moderate" new voices on the owners side that were helping to bridge the gap on central issues were gone, just as Donald Fehr was reinserted into the process.
From Backes, on the players' meeting with deputy commissioner Bill Daly and league attorney Bob Batterman:
"When you only see two of them, you think they're not taking it very seriously and they don't want a deal," Backes said. "The money was agreeable by both sides, the pension was agreeable by both sides. What was keeping this deal from being signed, sealed and delivered was how long an individual player contract could be, what the variance in that contract could be and how long the term of the (agreement) was going to be.
"You're telling me that we're going to blow up the season, blow up everything that we have in front of us, potential sponsorships and (tick) fans off more, for not being able to agree to those certain things. I just have a hard time believing it. Is that not close? You wonder why guys were getting antsy ... we thought the deal was done."
Well, he's right: The fans are getting a little (ticked)
The question for Backes and the rest of the NHLPA now is how much faith they put in Fehr to see this thing through, and how many of them would simply want a chance to vote on a proposal. It's difficult to tell if there's fracturing in the union, although there's been some impatience with Fehr being leaked.
A deal is still close, despite this week's kick to the groin. Who moves first?