NEW YORK -- Maybe it’s the change in locale, maybe it’s the fact the NHL and the players are meeting together after a long day Friday of shuttle diplomacy involving federal mediator Scot Beckenbaugh, but there is definitely a different vibe around the league’s labor situation Saturday.
Both sides have indicated that there has been movement toward a deal, and that’s no surprise given the work put in by Beckenbaugh on Friday during almost 13 hours of shuffling between the league offices and the players’ hotel a couple of blocks away.
No way that time is committed by the mediator if the two sides aren’t open to listening to various frameworks and tweaks to getting a deal done. If Beckenbaugh had the sense one or both sides were resistant to the process or trying to play games, he would have cut the meetings short and left the two sides to work through their issues on their own.
That hasn’t happened. Not yet, anyway.
What has sparked some of the optimism is that the two sides agreed to meet so early in the process Saturday, with league officials making the trek to the players’ hotel, the first time the talks involving the two sides have been held outside the league offices.
What remains unknown, of course, is how the players’ threat to disclaim interest and dissolve the union will play into this. By 6 p.m. Saturday, voting will have closed, the results of which almost certainly will give the union’s executive board the power to dissolve the union, setting up the potential for antitrust lawsuits.
The union has been tight-lipped about its plans once that vote is complete vis-a-vis how or when -- or even if -- that strategy would be implemented.
Some players felt executive director Donald Fehr should have disclaimed interest when the first self-imposed deadline arrived at midnight Jan. 2. Still, it seems relatively certain that, as long as things are moving toward a resolution, the union won’t play that card, which might explain why one option is not to establish a new deadline for filing the disclaimer.
If the optimism that has bled into the proceedings here in New York isn’t misplaced, maybe that vote won’t be a factor at all.
Still, as one player told ESPN.com Saturday afternoon, he’ll believe there’s a deal when he sees the deal.
That’s not pessimism, it’s realism.