Yes, despite a lockout that's already cancelled the entire pre-season and could begin wiping out regular season games as early as this week, the two sides apparently decided not to bother discussing critical issues like the division of revenue, free agency or limits on contract length. You could forgive hockey-deprived fans for wondering what the point was. After all, if you're not going to cover the important issues that are standing in the way of an agreement, what's left to even talk about?
Plenty, as it turns out. Despite a strict code of silence surrounding the proceedings, my spies were able to get a hold of the agenda for one day's worth of meetings. Here's what a day of "non-core" negotiations between NHL owners and players looks like.
9:00 a.m. - A relieved Gary Bettman announces that now that the NFL replacement refs have been removed due to their unprecedented incompetence, they've all gone back to their regular full-time jobs of managing the owners' public relations strategy.
9:30 a.m. - The owners and players engage in an extended argument over whether the coins that Flyer fans repeatedly pelt their families with during the first game back should count as hockey related revenue.
9:55 a.m. - The owners reassure a furious Donald Fehr that Jim Devellano's recent comments about an unwritten rule against using offer sheets was completely false, in the sense that they're pretty sure they actually did write it down at some point.
10:15 a.m. - A sheepish Darryl Katz apologizes for his earlier outburst in which he threatened to move the meeting to the boiler room unless everyone agreed to pitch in and buy him a pony.
10:35 a.m. - In a rare moment of unity, both sides agree that while these meetings are completely pointless and a waste of time, it's totally worth it just to see every sports reporter in Canada have to spend the weekend standing outside in the rain.
11:05 a.m. - Shea Weber starts to get the sinking feeling that nobody is going to support his divisional realignment plan that consists entirely of moving the Predators to Philadelphia.
11:20 a.m. - Facility managers reassure both sides that there hasn't been a power failure and all the lights in the conference room are working just fine, so they're not sure why all those fans are gathered outside waving torches.
11:45 a.m. - The owners make a push for a stricter testing policy to prevent players from bulking up with steroids, explaining that they know from firsthand experience that expanding too rapidly can end up being a total disaster.
12:00 noon - Everyone breaks for a lunch of sandwiches and cold cuts with the exception of Jeremy Jacobs, who as usual subsists entirely on champagne flutes filled with the tears of hockey-loving children.
12:45 p.m. - Upon realizing that there may not be enough lunch to go around, several players shrug their shoulders, wander outside, and then go steal theirs' from some European kids instead.
1:15 p.m. - Special presentation: "Don't worry guys, once a sport is popular it always stays that way no matter how greedy and moronic the people running it get: A guest lecture from our friends in professional boxing".
1:40 p.m. - Everyone decides that it would be fun to spend an hour randomly yelling at Brendan Shanahan, just for old times' sake.
2:45 p.m. - The owners request a short break when the tech guy shows up to adjust the remote controlled shock collars that Bettman makes them wear in case they're ever in public and get to the urge to express an actual opinion.
3:30 p.m. - Despite initial hopes that the huge crowd of enthusiastic men and women gathered outside may be made up of hockey fans coming together to show their support for both sides, it turns out to just be various truck drivers, farmers and line workers offering to switch jobs with Krys Barch.
4:00 p.m. - As the meetings wind down for the day, a disappointed Dustin Byfuglien begins to realize that all this talk about the best way to divide up the pie was only metaphorical.
Lowest moment: Wore full-length Cooperalls for a season, marking the only time in history that anyone looked at somebody from Philadelphia and wished they would take their pants off.
From The Not-So-Original Six: A Look Back at the NHL's First Expansion Team, one of 24 chapters of exclusive new material available exclusively in The Best of Down Goes Brown.
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