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NHL Lockout 2012: The point of no return

With games being cancelled on a weekly basis, how much longer do negotiators have before it's to late to save even a shortened season?

Jonathan Daniel

The NHL is slowly heading towards the point of no return as the league heads into the third week of cancelled games. If the NHL and NHLPA cannot agree to a deal by Oct. 25, the next wave of cancelled games will likely never be made-up and a shortened season would be the best case scenario.

Unfortunately that looks to be the likely case as the negotiations have taken, in Gary Bettman's words, a step backwards in the past week. Until a deal is reached, the NHL will continue to cancel games week-by-week.

Stretching this lockout into mid-November will bring more complications. The Winter Classic, which was supposed to be played by the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Detroit Red Wings this year, now faces a looming deadline. If there is no conclusion to the labor dispute by Nov. 20, hockey fans can kiss the annual New Year's Day game goodbye.

As bleak as all of this seems, there is still a chance there some NHL hockey gets played this season. The process this year is pretty much the same as what happened in the 2004-2005 lockout. The league canceled games in weekly or two-week chunks before finally deciding that the entire season would be done on Feb. 16, 2005.

There's still three and a half months for this group to get an agreement done, though there doesn't seem to be any urgency to the negotiations. The two sides are still meeting once every week/two weeks and it doesn't look like any games will be played before the New Year rolls by.

Photographs by jamesbrandon, jdtornow, phlezk, flygraphix, mcdlttx, tomasland, and literalbarrage used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.