Please excuse the unfettered optimism about the latest NHL lockout talks. Like many puckheads, we simply can't be guarded about this and are trying to will a new CBA into existence with our naïve enthusiasm.
Soooo … how many games might we have in a truncated 2012-13 season if — IF — these crazy kids finally figure their stuff out?
Gary Lawless of the Winnipeg Free Press reports that "if a deal gets done by the weekend, big if, training camps could open next Wednesday and 56-game season would begin on Dec. 20."
Pierre LeBrun of ESPN.com reports: "There was talk in BOG of possible NHL schedule IF there's a deal. One team exec said 60 games likely too much but 50-plus possible..."
Wrote Tim Panaccio of CSNPhilly.com: "Board of Governors talked of 50/60 games; leaning [less than] 60 ... guvs "feeling very positive." Another good sign: no 'drop dead' date was discussed."
Less than 60 games is, well, a little odd.
First, because the NHL could totally pull it off with a season that starts before Jan. 1; Jonathan Willis believed the season could be 57 games if it starts on Jan. 1.
Second, because 60 games are a rather important standard for sponsors, according to Ken Campbell of The Hockey News:
According to a source with a good knowledge of the NHL's business workings, the league has a deal with its major sponsors that will pay it 100 percent of its money if the league plays a schedule of 61 or more games. If the schedule dips below 61 games, the league will receive only 75 percent of its sponsorship money. That percentage continues to decrease down to 50 percent if the league only plays a 41-game schedule.
The NHL likely has a schedule made for any end-date for the lockout, and for any number of games. It may not be the prettiest hockey — and lord, will it be injurious — but 57-60 games are probably more than anyone who suffered through the 1994-95 lockout figured we'd get this time 'round.
But again: cautious optimism and all that stuff. Even if coaches were reaching out to their players.