And so we wait.
As the lockout rolls into Month No. 3, the NHL has asked the players to serve up a full proposal, something the NHLPA is working on into the night in order to present it by 10 a.m. Wednesday morning.
Details as to what it may include are relatively thin, but what is available is the economic system the union put on the table about 10 days ago when negotiations broke down into a shouting match between players and owners.
The players' proposal at that point was based on taking the $1.883-billion share they received last season and simply adding 1.75 per cent to it each season.
It was also reliant on the notion of NHL revenues continuing to grow from the $3.303-billion they hit last season. If hockey-related revenues increased by 5 per cent each season (including the current, locked out one), the players' share would shrink from 57 per cent last season to 55.2, 53.5, 51.9, 50.3 and 48.7 over the next five years.
Sounds good, right? A players' share of less than 50 per cent?
Here's the obvious issue: NHL revenues are not going to increase 5 per cent this season. In fact, the league already estimates they'll drop some $400-million to the $2.9-billion range, and that's if the season starts on Dec. 1, which is looking less and less likely by the day.
That makes it virtually impossible to set a guaranteed share like the players have in their proposal, as no one truly knows where revenues will be for not only 2012-13, but every season after that.
Will yet another lockout pull revenues down for years?
Or will this be a temporary one-year blip?
The best way to illustrate all of this is to simply present the financials in chart form. One word of caution, though: I've organized this information as if NHL revenues were going to increase by 5 per cent a season, something that is a virtual impossibility now.
I'll explain why below (note: all dollar figures are in millions):
As you can see, the differences between these two offers, if revenues grew at this rate, are pretty negligible: Just $128-million over five years, or less than 0.7 per cent of total HRR over this time frame.
That's basically nothing, which is what makes the fact this wasn't on the table back in October, when a full season could be salvaged and revenue gains likely factored in, a little infuriating.
Now, I had attempted to rework the projected revenue figures and present the NHLPA's offer in that light, but it's exceptionally difficult to do so. Even if you simply scale down this year's share to account for the lost games and revenue, what then do you do in Year 2 and beyond?
It's too hard to accurately determine, and we'd be guessing if we came up with a 2013-14 or 2014-15 projection.
(It's important to note here that the NHLPA has said it wanted to lay out an economic system first and then adjust it for the effects of the lockout. My issue with that is how on earth do you project what those effects will be?)
There are positives buried in these figures. For one, the two sides are closer together than they were in October, as the numbers here show a gap of roughly $500-million before the NHL agreed to pay $211-million toward the make whole and the PA put together these new numbers.
No. 2, the PA's ask of a 1.75 per cent increase, under normal circumstances, isn't unreasonable.
Problem is these are hardly normal circumstances.
Where do they go from here?
Looking at the figures above, the players could theoretically put an agreement on the table that started at 55.2 per cent in Year 1 before trailing down to 50 per cent by Year 4.
If NHL revenues fall to $2.9-billion in a shortened season, however, the players' share would dip to $1.6-billion and the notion of the league "making whole" pre-existing deals would be altered significantly.
I'm not sure there's a way around that. Regardless of who either side believes caused this mess, the so-called pain of the lockout is going to have to be shared by both sides here or they'll never get a deal done.
Perhaps the best way to resolve the conflict is ultimately a variation of the make whole provision: Anything above 50 per cent owed to the players in Years 1 and 2 is deferred down the road.
But even if the players decide to deal in percentages instead of guaranteed increases for the first time, don't expect huge movement on the contractual issues in any proposal.
There's a willingness to help the league eliminate the "back-diving" deals like the one Ilya Kovalchuk signed a couple years ago – perhaps even with the adoption of a 5 per cent year-by-year variance limit on contracts – but there's not much room for movement beyond that.
Both sides are entrenched on the other issues, meaning even if there's movement in the right direction on the economics, it likely won't be enough.
In some senses, they've never been closer. But getting through these final series of hoops will be the most difficult part of all.