Finding the CBA 'sweet spot'

Updated: December 5, 2012, 12:15 PM ET
By Craig Custance

First, you have to credit NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, which probably isn't something hockey fans want to hear right now. The target of fan and player frustration for most of the lockout might have saved the season with his idea to step away from the negotiating table along with NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr. After a line of strategies that haven't worked, including mediation and numerous failed proposals, this strategy appears to have given us the most headway yet towards the possibility of a hockey season.

For the first time, both sides are publicly saying that it looks like everyone involved wants to make a deal. That's progress.

Players were extremely cautious in their assessment of where things stand and rightfully so. We've seen these talks derailed too many times to get overly optimistic. But there is definitely more optimism than we've seen to date.

"Both sides are talking and that's always a better sign than not talking," wrote one player in an e-mail last night. "We'll see where this goes, hopefully in the right direction."

Meetings resumed this morning and at 11 a.m. the NHL's Board of Governors will meet in New York for the first time since voting to approve the lockout. Needless to say, a lot rests on Bettman's gamble to step aside.

But all the credit doesn't go to the commissioner. There's another factor that deserves some recognition.

The calendar.

In speaking with several economists whose focus is on the pure numbers of the sport rather than the deep emotions that have accompanied the lack of progress, it has been suggested that the owners have a clear understanding of exactly when is the optimal time to strike a deal with a players. Armed with the revenue and expense data that only the league and its teams have, economists say the league can project almost to the date when it becomes less beneficial to hold out for a better CBA and more beneficial to start playing hockey.

Not only do they say that date can be calculated, most assume that's exactly what the league has done.