Once again, optimism the NHL and its players (NHLPA) would be able to work out a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA) takes less than a week to deteriorate into skepticism. ESPN is among those reporting that instead of meeting each other in the presence of federal mediator Scot Beckenbaugh on Friday, January 4, they met with him separately.
But the writing was on the wall Thursday that the San Jose Sharks might lose their shot at the Stanley Cup in 2013.
The NHLPA was suggesting a new vote be taken on whether to file a disclaimer of interest. This would essentially reduce them to a trade association, making further CBA talks irrelevant.
However, it might force the owners to allow players to return. Owners have already filed suit to force the union to remain in place as well as declare the lockout legal.
Players have said that was premature, but it was a preemptive move to prevent the disclaimer of interest. It is also probably not going to work, but individual player suits to allow players to come back to work might not, either.
All of this would have to be determined through the courts, taking far too long to resolve to save this season. There is only one week left before commissioner Gary Bettman's announced deadline of January 11 for a new CBA.
That is why the parties going the legal route signals the very real possibility that the Sharks fans worst fears could be realized—losing a season for the second time in eight years.