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It’s a lockout, people; NHL CBA expires quietly in the night

Harrison Mooney
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DAMMIT

This image is from 2005 and the fact that it applies again is freaking ridiculous.

Well, crud.

As expected, the 2012-13 NHL season slipped quietly into a coma overnight, and when I say quietly, I mean quietly. On Saturday, the final day of the collective bargaining agreement that signalled the end of the last lockout, the NHL and the NHLPA couldn't even bring themselves to enter the same room -- to give the gob-smacked fans, incredulous media, box office-reliant small businesses, under-appreciated event staff, and anyone else that's built their lives around hockey the courtesy of one last attempt at a handshake. Not even for show.

They talked, sure. They talked past each other for the umpeenth time. But they didn't meet. The NHL saw no point.

"We spoke again today, and in light of the fact that neither party has indicated an intention to move off of its last proposal, we have decided that there is no point in convening a formal bargaining session," NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly told the Canadian Press with his usual snark. "We will keep in close contact in the coming days and if anything changes, I am sure we will be in touch."

They'll be in touch. How reassuring. In the meantime, the season will be in limbo.

It's now 12:01 a.m. on Sunday, September 16th, day 1 of the second NHL work stoppage in seven years. Gary Bettman has his lockout hat trick, and we're two games away from 1700 lost to labour strife in the No Hockey League.

Now, while the two sides didn't do much today, they still found the time to blame one another. From the CBC:

Steve Fehr, the NHLPA's special counsel, indicated the union requested a formal meeting with the league in New York before the "owners' self-imposed deadline" but was rebuffed.

"[Executive director] Don Fehr, myself and several players on the negotiating committee were in the city and prepared to meet," Steve Fehr said in a statement. "The NHL said that it saw no purpose in having a formal meeting."

Also without purpose: diehard fans, turned away from the game they love because the NHL and the NHLPA can't figure out a way to split reportedly record revenue. The players refuse to budge off the 57% of revenue they're getting now; the owners are trying to buffalo them down to 50%, and even then, neither side is entirely sure what they're fighting over.

In a conversation about the lockout with a casual hockey fan recently, I said the term "HRR."

A little while later, she interrupted me for clarification. "This is embarrassing, but what's HRR?"

"Hockey-related revenue," I responded. "And don't be embarrassed. The players and the owners don't seem to know what it is either."

That's the scariest part of this whole thing. Many in the hockey world seem to believe the lockout will end by late fall -- CBC's Elliotte Friedman says November, for instance -- but I'm skeptical.

Sure, the NHL doesn't want to lose the Winter Classic, and they don't want to lose another season of HBO's wonderful 24/7 series, so a late November return, which would spare both, makes some sense.

Although, does it really? If there's something the owners want, it seems to me the players would be wiser to stick to their guns at least until the New Year in the hopes that the owners' cave in hopes of saving their marquee event. But I don't see the owners folding.

And even if both sides are aiming for November, does anyone have any faith in their ability to make that much progress in two and a half months? It's been four months since last season ended, they haven't even laid a foundation for a new CBA yet.

They haven't defined their primary term. They haven't agreed on which proposal was the first proposal.

"Their deal that's on the table now is totally unacceptable," Henrik Zetterberg told Yahoo!'s Nicholas Cotsonika. "We can't even start bargaining because we're so far off."

True though it may be, it's quotes like that one that have begun to turn the fans -- who initially seemed to be siding with the NHLPA amidst the owners' oppressive initial proposal -- against the players. Totally unacceptable? Come on. It's a Capgeek world now; we're more aware than ever that you'll manage.

On Thursday, the day after the last formal meetings took place, the players showed a united front at a press conference, but the fans, those who actually feel their wallets lighten when they buy a ticket to an NHL game, saw a group of men with more money than God unwilling to take a smaller percentage of infinity. Yes, the owners are asking too much, and sure, the players' argument makes sense. As Paul Bissonnette said, if your employer tried to force a 24% paycut on you, you'd be furious.

But that's because we would feel a paycut. Just like we're going to feel this lockout.

Follow Harrison Mooney on Twitter at @HarrisonMooney

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