Money being flushed down the toilet

NEW YORK -- At its very elemental level, this labor dispute between the NHL and its locked-out players is about cash. Who gets to have it and who gets to control it.

No surprise there.

But as the two sides ambled through a second straight day without any meaningful talks and time continuing to tick-tock toward a second lost season in eight years, we wondered just how much money is being frittered away at this stage of the game.

By engaging in a bizarre game of institutional chicken that has brought the current set of talks to a shuddering halt, just how much money is being thrown away every single day, to say nothing of the mounting ambivalence to a sport that has always struggled to be relevant in many of its markets.

According to figures obtained by ESPN.com, the answer is a lot, millions in fact. Millions upon millions of dollars.

Had the season begun Jan. 12 -- a possibility if a deal was struck within a week or so of the owners’ offer of Dec. 27 -- its estimated total hockey-related revenues from that first night of action would have come in at around $32 million.

The average daily tally for hockey-related revenues, revenues that are split between the players and owners, is estimated to have been just north of $18 million for the first week of that imaginary season starting Jan. 12. In total, about $130 million in revenues would have been shared by the two sides through the first week of a season that would have, could have, should have been getting ready to launch in about a week’s time.

Instead, next week brings us a Jan. 11 deadline for getting a deal done to start a 48-game slate on Jan. 19, as negotiations continue to be marked not by urgency but by plodding gamesmanship.

As the two sides haggle over pension funding, the cap on contract lengths and next year’s salary cap, imagine each side busily tearing up $100 bills by the bagful and pitching them into the closest toilet.

Yes, we understand that the NHLPA may feel it needs to wait until the players vote a second time to give their executive committee the power to file a disclaimer of interest and dissolve the union. And we get that the trust between the two sides is at an all-time low.

But looking at what is being wasted leaves us with the fervent wish that, when the league does return, they just paint a giant toilet at center ice in all the arenas as a reminder of what might have been.