QUESTION: When is a cancellation not a cancellation? Answer: When the National Hockey League happens to be involved.
After months of lies, misinformation, more lies, more misinformation and deadlines that aren't deadlines, the great tragedy of the disappearing NHL season may be a tragedy no more.
Or still may be.
It depends who you happen to believe.
Every indication is that NHL pucks will be dropped again in March, the playoffs will be on in May, and a Stanley Cup -- with a giant asterisk -- will be awarded sometimes between now and Labour Day.
That is, if a deal can be reached today in yet another clandestine gathering in New York just three days after commissioner Bettman cancelled the season and left the door open for further negotiations all at the same time.
Gary Bettman will be there. Bob Goodenow is expected to be there, although that is not certain. His executive council will be. Mario Lemieux and Wayne Gretzky will be involved.
Steve Yzerman has been pushing an end game, knowing his career is on the line, with others in a similar position.
It all adds up to something, or nothing. Can anyone say for sure anymore?
All this, of course, is cause for celebration, confusion, more anger, more resentment, and just about every stunning emotion you can imagine. There is a part of you that says 'Make a deal but don't play the season.' There is a part of you that says 'Come back in September, market your game, change your rules. Don't get it fast. Get it right.'
And there is a part of you that says thank Gretzky -- he is the God of hockey after all -- that there will be something to follow today, tomorrow, all the way through June.
Let's be honest.
If given a choice between Joe Nieuwendyk and Shea Hillenbrand over the next three months, I'll take Nieuwendyk.
Do we know this is for certain?
After saying they'd never give up a cap, after the other side saying they'd never give up linkage, with documents needing to be written by last weekend, we don't know anything is for certain anymore.
This much we do know:
We can never believe another word Bettman says again. His credibility is shot. If he isn't fired, he should act with a dignity he has not displayed throughout this process and resign.
This much we do know:
We can never believe another word Bob Goodenow says again, as if we could believe any of it before.
If he isn't fired, which he should be, he too should resign. He promised his players one thing, delivered something entirely different.
And now it looks like there is a season. For this minute, anyhow.
Maybe a 28-game season. Maybe best-of-five playoff rounds instead of best-of-sevens. Maybe a draft and a place to put Sidney Crosby after all.
Maybe, with a largest asterisk you can find, this will be the year of the Maple Leafs.
Maybe or maybe not.
Logic and reason long ago disappeared from this process. And what's remarkable here is, if a deal does get done and the season is on, those who were charged with representing either side failed miserably.
It took external forces to get involved. Who would have thought that the high priced leaders wouldn't rely on replacement players but on replacement negotiators?
And today we'll find out if there will be a season.
Unless it's tomorrow.
Who knows anymore?