First of all, let's make a quick CBA assumption: the NHL owners are going to get what they want.
It's their teams and their money. If they want more of the money, with a CBA expiring, they're going to get it.
In 2004, the owners wanted a salary cap, more or less to protect them from themselves. In the end, they got it. It took sitting out an entire season but the owners got their cap and rolled back the players' salaries.
Now, it appears the owners want roughly a 50-50 split of hockey-related revenue with the players, who have been getting 57 percent under the current CBA. There has been number-crunching and posturing, by both sides, and there will be more, but 50-50 could be the end-game target for the owners.
Are the NHL players willing to sit out another season to see that the owners don't get what they want? No, they will not.
Are they willing to go through a lockout? Yes. Are they willing to lose some games (and paychecks)? Yes. But lose a full season (and full paycheck)? No. And the owners are counting on it.
Are the fans upset about all this mess? Sure. Will they come to the games when the games begin? Probably so. And the owners are counting on it.
Commissioner Gary Bettman said Wednesday there's a "wide gap" between the league and the union over their CBA proposals. NHLPA boss Don Fehr used the term "substantial monetary gulf." Both have talked about their side "seeing the world differently" than the other side -- whatever that means.
Both sides should see the NHL as a $3.3 billion business last year. Business is good.
Why would the owners want to turn over the applecart? Go back to 2004. To protect them from themselves, again.
Minnesota Wild owner Craig Leipold was crying poor in April, acting like he was down to his last dollar (OK, last million.) "We're not making money, and that's one reason we need to fix our system. We need to fix how much we're spending right now," Leipold told the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
Three months later, poor Craig Leipold was handing out 13-year, $98 million contracts to both Zach Parise and Ryan Suter. His explanation: it would help the Wild dig its way "out of the hole."
The Philadelphia Flyers made an offer sheet for Shea Weber that was so outlandish it might have made ol' Bobby Clarke blush. Nashville, to the surprise of some NHL owners, then matched it: all 14 years and $110 million of it, including $68 million in signing bonuses.
Parise, Suter and Weber benefitted very handsomely from the mega contracts. Other NHL players may now suffer because of it.
Time to settle in. This could take a while.
Who blinks first, Fehr or Bettman?