PITTSBURGH — It would be easy to get dramatic now, to breathlessly suggest that the chances of having a 2012-13 NHL season hinge entirely on the round of negotiations between the league and the NHL Players' Association that will begin today in New York.
It just wouldn't necessarily be very accurate. Not the way a number of Penguins players see things, anyway.
Oh, they recognize the importance of these talks -- "There's definitely urgency on our side, and we hope there's urgency on their side as well," Penguins player rep Craig Adams said Monday -- but they also seem to be convinced there isn't a looming drop-dead date for forging a new collective bargaining agreement. And there is precedent to prove it. "History has shown that it's not the end-all," left winger Matt Cooke said. "I mean, in '94, they went back in January, so you could still have a season."
The first three-plus months of the 1994-95 season were nuked by a lockout that limited teams to just 48 games before the Stanley Cup playoffs. Whether four dozen games are enough to establish a legitimate postseason field is a matter of opinion, but there's no question that 48 games are fewer than either side in this dispute would like to see. Such an abbreviated schedule would cut deeply into ownership's revenues and limit players to about 58.5 percent of what they would be paid during a conventional 82-game season.
Such fiscal realities might be what provides the greatest urgency to the talks.
"It's definitely an important time, considering the timing of everything, knowing in the back of all of our minds that it's probably the last chance to get anything close to a full season," center Sidney Crosby said. "I'm thinking that's on everyone's mind. That should, hopefully, create a little more discussion."