Late in the summer, in a dark corner of the Internet frequented by my fellow scribes, I started an NHL Predictions discussion thread ... with a twist.
Fill in the blanks: 1. There will/will not be a lockout. If there is, it will be resolved by (DATE). Regular-season games will resume on (DATE) and teams will play a (#)-game schedule.
Here was my answer: There will be a lockout. If there is, it will be resolved by Halloween. Regular-season games will resume on (US) Thanksgiving weekend and teams will play a 72-game schedule.
There were a few other questions in there, such as where the Phoenix Coyotes will be playing on Jan. 1, 2015 (Still shooting for Calumet), but question one remains unanswered and the National Hockey League players remain locked out.
Yes, I was naive in thinking that they'd be smart enough to resolve the situation by Halloween. Mostly because I figured not even the National Hockey League would be stupid enough to almost kill the golden goose in 1994, kill the golden goose in 2004, then get another golden goose in 2012 and wring its neck, too.
Then again, I underestimated Gary Bettman.
ESPN columnist Bill Simmons has repeatedly posited that Bettman, who was hired as NHL commissioner in 1993, was some sort of mole planted by his former employer, the NBA (for which he was a senior vice-president) to destabilize a league on the rise.
The crazy thing is that I believe such a sinister plot is possible, and not just because there's a James Bond marathon on TV this weekend and I'd be willing to believe my coffee being too weak was caused by the Russian mob.
Commissioners aren't hired to be nice people. Ask the New Orleans Saints. But at least the Roger Goodells and David Sterns of the world have games to go to.
I'm willing to believe the NHL's economic system was messed up in 2004. Even if you don't, you can believe the league is a better place with a little leveler economic playing field and a lot less of the wrestling on ice that counted as hockey around the turn of the century.
Bettman got his salary cap, and at a cost unprecedented in American sports. He shut down his league for entire year. If that's not a knockout blow, it's at least a knockdown.
And we're right back here seven years later watching Bettman and NHL owners demand the players save them from themselves months after deals like Shea Weber's, for 100 years and 30 bzillion dollars.
It's based on the same smugness I saw Bettman gleefully express in a CBC interview in which he knew hockey would work in the desert suburb of Glendale, Ariz., just like it did in Chicago.
Confronted by angry Flyers fan Jaymes Hall of Lancaster, Pa., Wednesday, Bettman had this to say, according to the New York Daily News:
"The impact that this is having on everybody associated with the league is not lost on us. Believe me. But the fact of the matter is, when you're dealing with a union and they're really not trying to negotiate any deal that you can live with for the long-term health of this game, there isn't much else you can do.
And we're hoping that with the passage of time, the players' association will come to realize that what we have proposed is more than fair. And the fact that we're keeping this proposal on the table, when it was contingent upon an 82-game schedule, should be evidence of our desire to get this done the right way."
Because a deal the league can live with is more important to the long-term health of this game is more important than having a game.
Gary Bettman doesn't want a deal. Gary Bettman wants a kill shot.
Though before we portray the players as smiling angels in this, let's remember they hired Donald Fehr to do their business.
Fehr? Remember him? The face of the 1994 baseball strike? That went well. Ask the Montreal Expos.
Here we are - watching two men and their respective armies get into a giant ego match for a continent to see.
I wish they'd step aside and let someone - anyone - actually interested in the well-being of professional hockey, as opposed to those interested in the well-being of the professional hockey business - fix this.
I'm no labor lawyer, so I'm too stupid to count the dollar signs in play here. I'm also too stupid to, as some fans have already vowed to do, tell the NHL to "Take off, eh!" I like watching professional hockey. Unfortunately, I do not speak enough Russian to enjoy KHL games on the Internet.
If you'll excuse me, I have a hockey game to go to tonight in Calumet. Let me know if you're going to get around to you know, playing hockey.
Brandon Veale can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/redveale.