This is Michael Russo's 18th year covering the National Hockey League. He's covered the Minnesota Wild for the Star Tribune since 2005 following 10 years of covering the Florida Panthers for the Sun-Sentinel. Michael uses “Russo’s Rants” to feed a wide-ranging hockey-centric discussion with readers, and can be heard weekly on KFAN (100.3 FM) radio and seen weekly on Fox Sports North.
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A month or two ago, if a blowup like Friday occurred in labor negotiations between the NHL and the NHL Players' Association, the two would have gone their separate ways for a dark period.
A lot has changed.
Despite Friday's contentious end to a meeting where a few players and a couple owners got into a heated exchange, a small group from the NHL and NHLPA, including No. 2's Bill Daly and Steve Fehr, had lunch yesterday in New York to clear the air and determine when to get back to the table.
That will happen this afternoon in New York City. No owners are expected to be in attendance, which could be a good thing with tension so high.
But the good news here is both sides are willing to put any anger aside and get back to the table.
The objective remains to try to get a deal done so there can be a shortened training camp followed by a shortened season between 64 and 70 games. Sixty-four would be the perfect calculation for an all-conference schedule, and the objective still would be to start Dec. 1.
For a Dec. 1 start though, the clock is ticking for a deal to get done, not only because 200 players would need to return from Europe for an abbreviated training camp, but because the business side of hockey would have to instantaneously get up and running.
Behind the scenes, the NHL has been putting together different templates for different shortened schedules.
But if a CBA can be struck, tickets need to be sold again, tickets need to be printed and distributed, there needs to be a redistribution of credited games for full and partial season ticket packages, teams would need to facilitate broadcasting, including the TV and radio schedules, booking TV trucks and making sure studios are ready and broadcast slots are free, sponsors need to be regathered, marketing and promotional campaigns need to begin, many teams have to install their ice, which takes three days typically.
Travel needs to be booked for teams, from planes to buses to hotels to food. A lot of this stuff, especially the broadcasting part, can't simply be done with a snap of the fingers. So my guess is both sides understand that they need to hit the gas and really make progress this week.
The slow progress still makes a Dec. 1 more of a long shot than a favorite, especially since the two sides have so many things to tackle -- finalizing revenue sharing, dealing with the "Make Whole" that the NHLPA is still not satisfied with, negotiating the contract changes the NHL is seeking, Olympics, realignment, pension, etc.
There's still a lot of work to be done, which is why it's a heck of a breakthrough that the two sides are willing to begin bargaining again after Friday's conclusion.
In other news, the Gophers tied Alaska Anchorage 2-2 last night after shutting out the Seawolves 4-zip Friday. Seth Ambroz scored a power-play goal, and Erik Haula's goal late in the third forced overtime.
Last night, I headed up to the National Hockey Center just to watch St. Cloud State take on the University of North Dakota for fun. Great hockey game and great atmosphere in the building Bret Hedican, Matt Cullen and Mark Parrish built. Huskies won 5-2, rebounding from UND's shutout victory the night before.
Lots of NHL folks scouting the game, including Toronto Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke.
I also got a chance to chat with Parrish, the now-retired Mark Parrish, who has been working as a color analyst for his alma mater on television with Fox-9's Jim Rich.
Parrish is having a ball being part of the Huskies' family again, and he says his ultimate aspiration is to get into coaching because his competitive juices are flowing again. And yes, to answer the dozen questions I received on Twitter last night, Parrish is still being paid by the Wild for another two years, including obviously during the lockout.
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