And on Tuesday, the league made that public.
In speaking to reporters after talks finished up for the day between the NHL and the NHLPA, Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly estimated that the league has lost $100 million in revenues from the canceled preseason.
"Today," he said, "was not overly encouraging."
And although they can pick up at any time, for the moment, no further talks are scheduled. That only further increases speculation that regular-season games could be lost, with an announcement sometime this week. The season was scheduled to begin Oct. 11.
"We are closer by definition [to canceling regular-season games]," Daly said. "We are focused on minimizing the damage."
Tuesday's bargaining session focused on the definition of hockey-related revenue and featured NHLPA head Donald Fehr, his brother, Steve, the special counsel to the players' association, and Winnipeg Jets defenseman Ron Hainsey.
"They have made some incremental moves," said Donald Fehr, who expects to informally talk with NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman by Wednesday. "It's clear that the players have made substantial moves towards the owners and the owners have made substantial moves away from the players."
As there has been throughout the process, there is still a glaring difference in opinion.
"We're looking for a long-term deal that's fair to the players, league and fans," Daly said. "Certainly, we're trying to be as creative as [we can be]."
Donald Fehr did not dispute Daly's figure of $100 million, saying "it might be a revenue number." He did note, though, that it could be a loss without factoring in arena operating costs. Meanwhile, Steve Fehr disputed the notion that no progress had been made.
"I don't know [that] I would agree with [that] phrase," he said. "Talks can resume anytime they're ready."
Daly, in an email to the Associated Press, said the league has not projected potential damage caused by the cancellation of any regular-season games. Clearly, the hope is that it won't have to address that matter, but the clock is ticking.
"What we have repeatedly tried to communicate is that we need to hear from them to move this process along," Daly wrote in the email. "And we do think that's the only thing that is going to allow us to gain traction. But that doesn't mean we stop everything we're doing and simply wait around for a proposal.
"If there is something we feel we can do to move the process forward, I'm sure we won't hesitate to do it."
According to Daly, the sides met for close to two hours Tuesday. One aspect that could expedite the negotiations moving forward — perhaps next week — is mediation. And both sides acknowledged that possibility has been broached.
"I've had that discussion with Gary, briefly," Donald Fehr said. "There hasn't been further discussion. We're not averse to help."
In the meantime, media outlets are making plans to keep fans happy during yet another stoppage. On Tuesday, Russia's Kontinental Hockey League announced it will broadcast games in the United States on ESPN3. It plans to air five games this month on ESPN3, the online streaming service. Wednesday's game between Dynamo Moscow and Ak Bars Kazan will be the first game televised.
Now in its third week, the lockout has forced many players to head overseas to play on month-to-month contracts. Others who are eligible to play at the lower levels opened training camp last week with American Hockey League affiliates. Still, there are several players who remain in North America, and continue to work out among themselves. On Tuesday in Minnesota, several members of the Wild got together for a skate.
"It is disappointing. The NHLPA is trying pretty hard to get something done. Every offer we make, we're trying to make it better and better every time, and it just seems like they're getting stubborn and they want to stick to their offer," Wild forward Pierre-Marc Bouchard said. "So, we'll see what happens next."
Bouchard was joined by defenseman Ryan Suter, one of two prized free-agent signees for Minnesota this summer. Suter and forward Zach Parise, who led the New Jersey Devils to the Stanley Cup Finals last season, both agreed to join the Wild on the same day in July.
"Obviously the players, we want to get out there and play, but we also know that something has to be fixed," Suter said. "We can't keep going through this every few years to try to come up with something. As players, we want it to be solved right. We want it to be the correct thing for years to come."
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