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Craig Leipold, Majority Owner of Minnesota Wild (left) leaves the NHLPA's offices with NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman (centre) and Washington Capitals owner Ted Leonsis (right) following collective bargaining talks in Toronto on Thursday October 18, 2012. (Chris Young/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Craig Leipold, Majority Owner of Minnesota Wild (left) leaves the NHLPA's offices with NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman (centre) and Washington Capitals owner Ted Leonsis (right) following collective bargaining talks in Toronto on Thursday October 18, 2012. (Chris Young/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Amid all the bluster, signs of progress in NHL lockout Add to ...

There's another way to see this.

Yes, Gary Bettman was spitting, shaking mad when he stood before the television cameras after a brief meeting with the NHLPA on Thursday.

This is not to question the commish's sincerity, but one can't help but wonder what the mood was in the limo on the way to the airport a few minutes later.

If I were him, I'd have allowed myself a smile.

Why?

Despite all the bluster and public disappointment, the NHL has won a fundamental philosophical concession from the PA - both sides are now de facto accepting a 50-50 split as the end point of this negotiation, as my colleague Mirtle adroitly points out.

It's not going to be either quick or easy, but the discussion over how to divide a massive pot of gold has now become a discussion over how long it should take to split it.

To grossly over-simplify, the sides are now arguing about when it should happen - year one, two or three of a five-year deal - and how quickly.

This is not a huge surprise, the PA had telegraphed its intention to accept a lower overall share of revenues this summer. The sides aren't close enough to shake hands and the main sticking point is still very sticky - how would you feel if your employer signed you to a contract at market value and then came back two months later and said 'gimme'?

But to say that we're back to square one isn't strictly true.

It doesn't feel like it, it doesn't look like it, but progress has been made this week.

Watching from my listening post in Montreal on Thursday afternoon, I was reminded, more than anything, of the last time I haggled over buying a car.

There was eye-rolling, there was tension, there was bickering over math, there was a saleslady's visit to her manager's office (oldest trick in the book), followed by a deep sigh and a 'it's the best I can do', there was a theatrical, huffy exit from one of the parties (me).

In the end, I paid a little less than the dealer wanted, but I needed the car, and I still forked over a sizable wad of dough.

The point is the deal got done, as it eventually will between the players and the league.

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