There's no denying that last week's dramatic breakdown in negotiations between the NHL and NHLPA was bad news for hockey fans holding out hope for a partial season. After a bizarre Thursday session that left Don Fehr shaking his head and Gary Bettman shaking in anger, it feels like we're closer than ever to writing off the 2012-13 season completely.
But despite all the doom and gloom, observers kept reminding us of one positive: there's still time. While we don't know when the season would be cancelled, most experts agree we should have another four weeks or so before doomsday.
Will that be enough time? Nobody knows. Here's a look at how those next few weeks might play out.
December 14 - Gary Bettman makes a proposal to the NHLPA that he swears is the league's best and final offer, and everyone believes him because he'd certainly never lie about something like that.
December 17 - The two sides find common ground for the first time in months when everyone in the room is able to agree that Steve Fehr's sweaters are starting to get ridiculous.
December 20 - Your children are disappointed to find out that the man with the long straggly beard and the big jiggly belly sitting by himself at the mall is actually just a locked out NHL player who didn't bother to find a job in Europe.
December 24 - The Grinch Who Stole Christmas is fired from his job at Proskauer Rose for not making enough people miserable.
December 25 - A nation full of hockey fans wake up hoping to find a new CBA under their tree for Christmas, right up until a sulking Ron Wilson reminds them that contracts from Santa contract aren't always worth what you'd think they are.
December 26 - The owners must explain to a disappointed George Parros that while it's nice that he brought his own pair of gloves, that's still not the kind of "boxing day meeting" they meant and he knows it.
December 29 - Bettman makes a proposal to the NHLPA that he swears is the league's best and final offer, and everyone believes him because this time he crosses his heart and hopes to die.
December 31 - Fehr and Bettman lead the two sides in a marathon bargaining session that stretches to midnight, resulting in the most awkward "Why is everyone looking at us like we're expected to kiss?" New Year's moment of all-time.
January 1 - Observers in Times Square are delighted at the ultra-realistic Father Time and Baby New Year performance before realizing that the cranky old man with the crying infant are actually just Jeremy Jacobs and Ryan Miller arguing again.
January 7 - Bettman makes a proposal to the NHLPA that he swears is the league's best and final offer, and everyone believes him because he triple stamps it black ball no erasies.
January 11 - Advanced theoretical mathematics suggests that this will be the date for a key milestone, as the one billionth "Hey, at least the Maple Leafs are still undefeated" joke of the lockout is made.
January 15 - The suspected "drop dead" date for the league, in the sense that it's the day the season will be cancelled if an agreement has not yet been reached.
January 16 - The suspected "drop dead" date for the league, in the sense that that's the phrase they'll be hearing from their dozen remaining fans.
Patented strategy: Would keep the mood light at practice by having underperforming players take part in a fun drill called "Why don't you skate towards me as fast as you can and we'll pretend you’re Bobby Orr."
From The ten greatest coaches in NHL history, one of 24 chapters of brand new material available exclusively in The Best of Down Goes Brown.Buy today: Amazon.com | Amazon.ca | Kindle | Barnes & Noble | Nook | Chapters/Indigo | Kobo | iBooks