As expected, barring a miracle, the NHL's second lockout in eight years and third in 18 will begin promptly tonight at 11 p.m. CT.
Unless there's circumstance-changing negotiations, there won't be a news conference or even a statement.
In an email I received from Bill Daly, the NHL's deputy commissioner said, "It does not appear as if there will be any formal bargaining today. Neither side has altered its position on substance in the last 48 hours."
I'll have meaty coverage in Sunday's newspaper and I'll probably be back on tonight with some more info on what a lockout means, but a taste, here's a bit of a Q &A with Wild veteran Matt Cullen:
“It doesn’t seem like it’s something that you should have to go through twice in your career. But it’s a fact of life. It seemed like the last couple weeks there was not a lot going on, so it was almost a foregone conclusion that there was going to be a lockout.
“Now, let’s try to make this as quick as we can. We just have to try to stay as optimistic as possible and hope for the best.”
In 2004, after the lockout began, the two sides didn't talk again for about three months. I asked Cullen about that.
"I don’t get the same feel – at all – that we had from last time and I still believe it will get done sooner than later. It just seems like there’s not a reason on either side to miss any games over it. Last time, there were some serious battle lines drawn over the salary cap.
"This time it seems like it could be really be settled sitting down in a room. Hopefully as we get closer to training camp and the season opener, hopefully that will be enough pressure on both sides to make something happen."
Commissioner Gary Bettman made the contention the other day that the pain, the lost wages that the players will feel even during a brief lockout is less than the players would feel if they just took the NHL's most recent proposal.
And obviously, there's a chance players even wind up giving back 100% of their salaries this year if the lockout lasts the season. I asked Cullen how the players come to terms with that (in other words, just cut the best deal you can and play):
"It doesn’t seem to me there’s a reason there should be a lockout anyways. From our side of it, we’re trying to set this thing up in an attempt so that every time the CBA expires, we don’t have to have a lockout. It’s more of 'lets try to do this a different way, maybe let’s take a page out of baseball’s book.' That’s probably the most stable CBA in all of sports. Like things are pretty good. … Let’s structure this so every it expires we don’t have to [do this to] the fans and have a lockout. Like this is dumb. And if we do it again the same exact way, we’ll be in the same spot and it’s just going to be a black mark on the game. It doesn’t need to be like that. There’s better way to set it up. Maybe we can structure this better so down the road we don’t have to do this every time."
Cullen says skating the past few weeks with Zach Parise and the Wild's glut of prospects like Mikael Granlund, Johan Larsson, Jonas Brodin and Jason Zucker "adds a lot to the frustration, just the excitement of what could be here. So hopefully it won’t be long."
I'll be on KARE-11 live tonight during the 6 o'clock news. Also, I'll be hosting a live lockout chat at 2 p.m. Tuesday on startribune.com