Expectations for Tuesday's meeting involving a select group of owners and players were low, and there was even a sense that perhaps the players would be in over their heads during the talks and that it would be a waste of everyone's time.
But as the two groups -- six owners and 18 players -- met for more than 10 hours there seemed to be growing optimism that maybe, just maybe, the sides were making some sort of real progress that could salvage the 2012-13 season.
Following Tuesday's talks NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly and NHLPA special counsel Steve Fehr -- who were both a part of the meetings -- held a joint press conference and announced that talks will resume again on Wednesday in New York. It was the first time during these 80-plus days of madness that the two sides spoke together.
Fehr said that in some ways Tuesday's meeting might have been the best day they've had yet, while Daly added that he appreciates the efforts of the players and that both sides want to get a deal done.
Wednesday is also a big day because there is a scheduled meeting between the NHL's board of governors in New York.
The common theme coming out of Tuesday's talks was that the presence of Penguins star Sidney Crosby and co-owner Ron Burkle seemed to help smooth things over and that Burkle was a "voice of reason" throughout the process. Burkle has a history of working with labor unions and getting deals done. Rob Rossi of the Tribune-Review outlined his role in the talks late Tuesday evening.
From the Trib:
Crosby also will not break ranks with the players' union, but his objective over the past week has been to establish common ground among players who have lost trust in NHL ownership and management as a whole, the sources said.
Over the past few weeks, Crosby, Burkle and Lemieux have privately discussed plans to bridge the gap between players and owners. The sources said all three had grown frustrated with the lack of progress.
Crosby and Burkle flew to New York together Monday. Burkle lives in suburban Los Angeles. Crosby's Los Angeles-based agent, Pat Brisson, also was on the flight, the sources said.
The cynical approach to Tuesday's talks would be that they didn't involve commissioner Gary Bettman or union leader Donald Fehr, and that when they re-enter the room everything could still fall apart. That could also still happen during Wednesday's board of governors meeting when the owners that weren't in the room on Tuesday get updated on whatever took place.
The NHL has already cancelled all games through Dec. 14, a total of 422, as well as the Winter Classic in Ann Arbor, Michigan and the NHL All-Star weekend in Columbus, Ohio, and time is starting to run out on salvaging a shortened 2012-13 season.
They needed a breakthrough. Maybe it finally started.