It's back to the bargaining table for the NHL and the NHLPA. Fresh off the news that the Winter Classic won't be happening in 2013, the two sides have finally agreed to meet in person for the first time in over two weeks.
The two sides have communicated through phone calls and texts but now they will meet at a "secret location" in an effort to finally reach a new CBA (ESPN).
There's still time left to salvage 2012-13.
Fans that were left deflated after the news surfaced that the Winter Classic was canceled need to remind themselves that there are bigger issues still at stake. The fate of 2012-13 still hangs in the balance. While the Winter Classic is an incredible event and a huge source of revenue, the remainder of 2012-13 is vital not only to the league but also to each and every NHL club. If the two sides reach a deal and we all are enjoying hockey on December 1st, fans probably won't be too miffed that the Winter Classic isn't taking place.
It's refreshing to hear that the two sides are meeting again and it's positive to hear that the meetings will be held at a secret location. It's clear that the previous meetings, those held with a large media circus waiting outside, were mostly PR stunts and nothing of major value got done. It's when the two sides meet in secret that deals get done.
While the NHL has stated an 82-game is no longer possible, there's still a lot of 2012-13 that could be saved. If you think back to 2004-05, Gary Bettman didn't officially cancel the season until February 16th. Using this as a benchmark, one has to assume that the NHL isn't planning to ax the 2012-13 season yet and still has plenty of time to reach a new CBA before the entire season is lost.
However, that optimistic notion aside, the two sides are still distant on some key issues. One of these issues is how the topic of existing player contracts should be handled. The players want their contracts to be honored in full (obviously) while the NHL wants to see them rolled back.
Now we wait.