As we head into the second week of the No Hockey League, the impasse remains unchanged. That is to say, 750 players and the 30 owners who locked them out are as far apart as the farthest spread of the millions of fans who follow them.
The numbers are enormous. All those fans, all the people put out of work, all the millions of dollars at stake tend to render the dispute gargantuan when in reality, the number comes down to two.
They are NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and NHL Players' Association chief Bob Goodenow.
There is one thing the pair do agree on. As a duet, they can only hit one note, but they do it in perfect harmony. They do not need the involvement of an outsider.
Come again? They've hit a brick wall and there's nobody among the other five billion or so residents of the planet who might find some avenue of escape from this untenable situation?
Nope, each will say in some form or other. Nobody understands the situation as clearly as they do. Both lawyers, they must have forgotten that edict about someone acting on his own behalf as having a fool for a client.
There are plenty of ins and outs to why a new collective bargaining agreement wasn't struck, but in simple terms it boils down to a cap on players' salaries. The league wants it, the players don't.
OK, there's a starting point with which a mediator can work. While their respective intransigence almost guarantees neither will ever consider the other's suggestions for any alterations to the cap, they might listen to a respected mediator.
First, let's consider the impasse in the grand scheme of things. This isn't a lockout of federal employees; it's a business in which the partners are at odds over how to cut up the profits.
Business, if you study history, is business. Until they were outlawed from doing so, American and British firms did business with those in Nazi Germany during a rather larger conflict. Throughout the many Middle East flareups over the years, corporate relations between the warring states never missed a beat.
This spat is about a group of talented performers who attract the dollars arguing with the theatre owner over how much of it they should get.
We are the show, the players are saying. Without us, the franchise-holders rightly respond, there is no show.
It's surprising neither sees the clarity of the foregoing. Not only are they partners, without each other they're useless.
Forget about a lockout league. Nobody showed much interest in that early barn-storming session of no-hit hockey.
Forget about replacement players by the league. Unless they have cleverly hidden away 750 high-quality players high in the Himalayas or somewhere, there are no replacement players.
No matter how you cut it, the partners have to get over the rhetoric and posturing of recent weeks (during which they were partners in the highly successful World Cup) and get together.
And not just if they're pushed there by impatient players and owners. These guys need to accept the fact there are other smart people around, and to give some thought to the notion that maybe there is somebody out there with some imagination and creative ideas that might provide the framework for a workable solution.
For my money, the guy is Richard McLaren, the UWO law professor whose work in dispute resolution is not only reflected in the many tomes he has published but in his hands-on work in sports as chair of the committee that led to a completely new and honest approach by the giant U.S. Track and Field Association. As a member of the 12-member Court of Arbitration for Sport that handles Olympic and other international disputes, he has encountered far trickier situations than this lockout.
Interestingly, he has done work for the NHL before -- as a salary arbitrator. His presence between the parties would be pretty timely just now.
LOCKOUT DAY 37
Total days of season missed: 10
Games lost yesterday: 3
Total games missed: 62
Negotiations: No talks are scheduled.
Yesterday's best cancelled matchup: Chicago at Detroit. The NHL lost the first scheduled game this season between Original Six teams.