It's not the first time Ken Dryden's dashed a Bruins' fan hopes, but his piece from last week really cements it for me, and I think he pretty much nailed it.
The fact is, both the owners and players are doing relatively fine. Their fight is not one of economic necessity. Bettman needs to win because he won last time, and he’s a winner. The players need to win because they lost last time and have to prove they’re not losers. The two sides didn’t really start to negotiate until July because there wasn’t much to talk about, and because for each to win what he needed to win, neither could agree before the collective agreement expired. There’s no agreement because neither needs an agreement. It’s not a fight they need to have. They fight because they can.
Based on this, I've come to the depressing conclusion that the NHL isn't coming back this year. It would already be settled if it was going to. This is part of the routine for the NHL and NHLPA now. "Oh, 7 years past, lets have another lockout, no biggie. Hey Ryan, which Euro-league do you want to play in this go-round?"
And with yesterday's news that all preseason games in September have been cancelled, the cycle begins anew.
They'll cancel games in chunks, and people will hold out hope. October will fly by and Gary and Donald will have breakfasts and lunches and dinners. Nothing will change. In November, the players will think the Owners will come to their senses. But it's not about the owners coming to their senses anymore, it's about Gary agreeing to come down off his high horse.
Then December will pass and when the Winter Classic - set to be one of, if not THE biggest revenue-generating and also most-attended hockey game in history - is cancelled, we'll get the plug pulled on the whole damn thing. They might wait until mid-February like last time around to make it official, but it'll be over.
And "Season Not Played" will clinch that second championship. Gary Bettman will skate the cup around an empty arena, lifting it over his head. He'll don the customary locker room t-shirt and hat, and swig champagne and cheap beer out of the thing. And nobody will cheer, because he'll be the only one who wanted this.