Without a deal in place, and no sight of one in the near future, these are bleak times for a hockey fan.
But why? Both sides were so close before the season was canceled.
The answer, as always, is money. The cancelation of the 2004-2005 season is yet another financial burden for the league to tackle. The ramifications for the cancelation of an entire season will be felt for years to come. Not good news for a sport that has had its own financial woes for years.
After the season was canceled, Bettman and the NHL took the last offer they made off the table. It was, according to them, back to square one. Bettman ominously made an announcement after the cancelation of the season that there would be hockey this fall, one way or another.
This, of course, implies that the NHL owners will get replacement players if they can't work out a deal with the NHLPA.
The truth is, aside from lawsuits filed by the NHL against the NHLPA for unfair business practices, very little has happened since the cancelation of the season. There have been meetings, formal and informal, and rumors of offered deals, but nothing concrete, and certainly nothing that would imply that progress has been made.
The future for NHLPA players offers two options, assuming a deal is not made. Players can "cross the picket line," so to speak, and play for the NHL not as an NHLPA member. Or they can continue to play in Europe, as they have been doing.
Or, the NHL could declare an impasse, which means they would claim the NHLPA did not negotiate a new CBA in good faith. If the NHL were to win such a case, the NHLPA would be disbanded.