The question then is, when will there be a deal? The regular season is scheduled to start Oct. 11. If it begins late, players start to miss paychecks and owners lose revenue from games not played. This isn’t like seven years ago when Bettman insisted that many franchises were better off financially not playing than playing.
As always, the owners have more money than the players, so they can probably dig in a little deeper and longer. But the NHL does not want the Winter Classic, which is scheduled for Michigan Stadium on New Year’s Day between the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs, affected by a work stoppage. In fact, it doesn’t want to lose the four weeks of HBO’s “24/7” leading up to the Classic, either, because that series brings a lot of attention to the sport among non-hockey fans.
That probably means that the owners’ unspoken drop-dead date is around Thanksgiving. If a deal isn’t done by then, the owners will start to squirm. Their hope, no doubt, is that the players start to squirm much sooner than that.
What’s worth remembering is that this is not Fehr’s first rodeo. He ran the baseball union during numerous work stoppages, including the strike of 1994-95, when the owners cancelled a World Series and actually began spring training with replacement players.
What is encouraging is that there’s been some progress on both sides in the last few weeks. In fact, if the two sides really want to make a deal, getting in a room nonstop for a couple of days could and should do it. The question is whether each is willing to be flexible enough to get to the finish line.
And then there’s one other question: Do the two sides understand how sick and tired all fans, even hockey fans, are of hearing millionaires bickering with billionaires? The answer to that question will come in the next 48 hours. Don’t hold your breath that they’ll get it right.
For more by the author, visit his blog at www.feinsteinonthebrink.com. To read his previous columns for The Post, go to washingtonpost.com/feinstein.