Midnight EST is a time all hockey fans should be keeping an eye on tonight, because the 2013 NHL season likely depends on what happens in the hours leading up to it. If the NHLPA decides not to file a disclaimer of interest, this could be a sign that they feel negotiations with the NHL are in fact going well and that there is a good chance a new CBA will be agreed to in short order, or at the very least by the January 11th date many are suggesting a new deal needs to be agreed upon by in order for a 48-game season to be played beginning on January 19. If they do decide to file the disclaimer of interest by tonight’s deadline, however, the chances that a second NHL season will be lost increase dramatically.
Some will point to the success that the NBAPA had during their lockout in 2011, when less than two weeks after decertifying their union they were able to broker a new deal with the NBA and salvage a 66-game season. But the NHL and NBA, as most people know, are two completely different animals, and when strong personalities like Gary Bettman and Donald Fehr are involved you can’t discount the possibility that such a move could blow up in the players’ faces. Decertifying would take Fehr out of the picture, but instead of forcing the owners to make a deal, such an action might only embolden Bettman and the owners to try and stick this out if the NHLPA’s masterful tactician is removed form the equation, which–still unbelievably–could lead to a second NHL season being wiped out in less than a decade.
Reports are suggesting that the two sides are (finally) making potentially sustainable progress, and if you are to believe Eklund’s sources, there is even the possibility that the NHLPA would be amenable to a ten-year deal, so if some, most or all of these things are true, then you would think the NHLPA would be loath to file the disclaimer of interest by the deadline tonight. But funnier (and sadder, really) things have happened during this process, so don’t start celebrating just yet.