1. How long will the lockout last?Gut instinct says somewhere near, but not long before American Thanksgiving. Both sides have a lot of dollars and momentumat stake once the calendar hits December between nationally televised games, HBOs 247 buildup, and the Winter Classic itself. Clearly,the combination of those elements add significant extra pressure to negotiations.
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2. Is it possible the lockout will sacrifice an entire season?Unfortunately I have to say yes, it is a possibility. Doing the math, if we dont get a resolution in principle by December 15th, Im not sure how ameaningful schedule could be logistically laid out or played out. Im looking at that mid-December date (or somewhere around it) as the breaking point for a hockey season. 3. If a resolution is reached, how quickly could the season begin?After talking with players and coaches, the best estimate is 2 weeks. This would be the barest of bare minimums. Its hardlyenough time to get a decent training camp plus say, 2 exhibition games. However I think all teams, under the same disadvantage,could launch after at least 14 official days together. 4. All those Sharks headed overseas... how fast can they come back?Instantly. The Sharks lead the NHL in players headed to EuropeRussia... and those guys all have immediate "outs" in their contracts. Essentially Joe Thornton, Logan Couture and friends... could all be on the next flight back to California. Foreign teams understand they are truly borrowing NHL players.
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5. Are players headed overseas just to make money?Absolutely not. In fact, between paying hefty foreign taxes, and funding their own insurance policies... players are likely to pay a large portion of the earnings they make. Players are doing this primarily to keep their routines in order, their skills sharp, and their competitive edge intact. Although I know some of the Sharks will enjoy their overseas life experience, their travels are hardly vacation-status.6. What would a condensed season look like?It will be ugly. It will be difficult on the players. Look at what the NBA did last season, slamming in 66 games across a matter of 4 months.Often, teams played 3 nights in a row. No offense to the association but Im not sure how hockey bodies would fare in thatextent given their greater physical exertion. Possibilities to ease the workload could include expanding rosters, or even increasing the amount of players that can dress on a given night. Regardless, I'm of the opinion a shortened season should contain no less than 50 games. In 1994-95, the schedule was cut to 48, but I think with anything fewer, the integrity of resultsplayoffs begin to be compromised and questioned.7. When would the regular season schedule get tossed?We already know that the first 3 preseason games for San Jose have been cancelled. It's my best guess that somewhere betweenthe 27th and the 29th, the regular season schedule has to be voided. Going back to that 2 week minimum-camp theory,it's easy to look at the NHL's scheduled "Opening Night" of October 11th, and do the math backwards.RELATED: Sharks owners release letter to fans concerning lockout
8. What again... is the main sticking point with negotiations?Money, of course. The NHL has grown to a 3.3 billion dollar per year business. However while some teams are thriving financially, others are hurting dearly. It's between the players and owners to divvy up that hypothetical pot of "Hockey Related Revenue" and keep everyone afloat. Conflicting numbers and percentages have been thrown back and forth, but the general assumption is that the gap in negotiations is currently between 500 million and 1 billion. 9. What can the optimistic fan do, in the mean time?Stay hopeful, updated, and most importantly: civil. The one thing players and owners agree on, is that the fan is losing out greatly for every missed NHL game. My suggestion... find classy, thoughtful, and impactful ways to make your voice heard. The situation can not be controlled, but your actions can. Support the inaugural season of the San Francisco Bulls (Sharks new ECHL affiliate). Support the San Jose State men's hockey team. And if you're in the greater Eastern Seaboard... support the Worcester Sharks (San Jose's AHL affiliate). If you truly love the game, don't let the disgruntled fanbase take a step backwards.RELATED: NHL deputy commissioner Daly says revenue split doesn't work
10. What will you do until there's a season?Thanks for asking! I am employed full-time by Comcast SportsNet and fortunately this lockout does not affect that one bit. Although it won't be my preferred assignment of covering the Sharks, they will inevitably keep me very busy reporting on stories or hosting studio shows. I will clearly miss working with Randy, Drew, Bakes, Heddy, Curtis, and Males... but do know that whenever the NHL is back, CSN will be ready, with bold plans for hockey season.