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Hal Gill: ‘We’re getting down to crunch time’

Today, the 80th day of the NHL lockout, owners and players are having face-to-face negotiations for the first time in this process. Eighteen players and six owners are reportedly meeting in New York City, without Donald Fehr or Gary Bettman participating, in an attempt to make progress to salvage the 2012-13 season. Both sides hope it’s beneficial.

“Hopefully it’s something with new faces and new people looking at it from a different angle,” Nashville Predators defenseman Hal Gill said this morning. “Hopefully there is more dialogue, more people talking, more ideas thrown out there in an attempt to get something done.”

This much-anticipated owners/players get-together coupled with the board of governors meeting set to take place Wednesday, with owners from all 30 teams participating, provides a sliver of hope that progress could be made with new voices being heard.

It may not be a do-or-die week, per se, in negotiations, but it’s an important one.

“We’re getting down to crunch-time. I don’t know how much of a season we can salvage, but if we want to do something it has to be done in the next few weeks,” said Gill.

The latest cancellation of games had the NHL wiping out the schedule through Dec. 14. With each passing day, the NHL gets closer its second lost season since 2004.

On Monday, Steve Burton of WBZ-TV in Boston stated the following:

“My sources tell me that an unannounced meeting was held today with a high-ranking official from each side and significant progress was made towards salvaging the hockey season. It’s possible that an announcement could come as early as tomorrow or Wednesday.”

Gill’s response?

“It’s funny because we are so informed now. Back in the last lockout in 2004, maybe I would have [believed] it and tried to make a few phone calls. Now, with the information is out there, as soon as anything happens we know about it. We knew [the report] was a farce right away,” he said.

ESPN’s John Buccigross tweeted last week that the NHL could be setting up a start date in January. But even these reports aren’t providing much optimism that a season will actually be saved. Fans across the league have been cancelling or seeking refunds for their season tickets, while more players seek game action overseas by the week.

“Both sides, we’ve been pretty disrespectful of the game and the fans that really do support us,” said Predators center Paul Gaustad. “[We feel] disappointment and responsibility. It’s not just a one-sided thing; it’s two sides that haven’t come to an agreement. It stings when you hear fans being negative about it. Hopefully we can get this done quickly to make the game healthy.”

The NHLPA will think about decertification if no progress is made in negotiations soon, which could either accelerate labor talks or have a damaging impact.

ESPN’s Craig Custance broke down the winners and losers of decertification this week (Insider link), where he stated the hockey world might look radically different as a result – no draft, no salary cap and possible contraction, among other affects. However, when the NFLPA and NBPA decertified in recent labor negotiations, the talks were expedited and a deal was struck within days in both leagues.

It’s difficult to judge what the actual effect may be.

“It’s an option that I think we are trying to do the things we need to do now with negotiating. It’s obviously something we don’t want to do – we just want to get a deal done and play right now – but we’ll look at that down the road,” said Gill.

Let’s just hope it doesn’t get to that point.

 
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