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NHL Lockout 2012: 'When the moment is right ... deal will be done quickly'

The NHL lockout celebrates its two-month anniversary this weekend. Ted Starkey looks at how matters are progressing ... or not.

NHLPA special counsel Steve Fehr
NHLPA special counsel Steve Fehr
Bruce Bennett

While the best of the hockey world is celebrated Monday in Toronto with the induction of four new Hall of Famers, the rest of the hockey world is stuck in a standoff that is going to hit the two-month mark this week.

Of all the gatherings in Toronto over the weekend normally reserved to honor the game's best, an interesting quote came out from NHLPA special counsel Steve Fehr at the Primetime Sports Management Trade Show.

Per CBC's Elliotte Freidman, Fehr said "One thing Bill Daly and I agree on - when the moment is right ... deal will be done very quickly."

After a roller-coaster week of negotiations in New York, this quote kind of crystallizes where we are in this lockout. Both sides have shown a willingness to talk in the past week, with more negotiations happening than any other point in the labor dispute, but until both sides elect to go for a settlement, everything else is put on hold.

Certainly, given the back-and-forth talks and emotions of the last week, there is some pessimism surrounding the hockey world over talks that stalled, but there are a few key points to remember.

First, the last time the NHL lost a season, the two sides had substantial talks just twice - once in December, the other in Feburary just before the season was lost for good.

The other point to remember is that both NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and executive director Don Fehr are masters of playing a high-stakes game of negotiating.

They aren't going to let the other side know what the actual settlement point will be, they will look to push on issues they may or may not care about in order to win concessions on others they really do care about, and both know what's at stake. And neither is likely to give any sort of indication of where that invisible line in the sand is that is the division between stalemate and settlement.

And, most likely, nobody - media included - is really going to have an inkling of when a settlement is going to come.

From the NHL's side, there seems to be indications that the league is moving closer to believing a settlement is nearing. Various teams have re-started marketing activities and ticket departments of certain clubs are beginning the process of selling tickets. A general sense that a shortened schedule in the range of 60-70 games (another point of negotiation since players will only get paid for the games actually played) starting in the next few weeks is becoming more and more likely.

For the players' side, the lost checks are beginning to add up, with another one set to be lost this week. While a portion of the NHL is playing in Europe or the AHL, the reality is that a majority of the players won't be earning a paycheck if the team's don't come to a settlement. And the money lost for making a stand against the league dwarfs the amount they could possibly recoup if they wait until next summer to settle.

So, what is the magic line in the sand? No one but the leaders of the NHL and NHLPA know. And until one side crosses that threshold, resulting in a quick settlement, the league and players will continue the standoff.