Now the clock is really ticking.
It is not a coincidence that National Hockey League deputy commissioner Bill Daly went on a Toronto radio station one day last week and said that in order to have any sort of season the lockout needed to be resolved by mid-January. The next day the league canceled another set of games — through mid-January.
The Nashville Predators really looked forward to the 2012-13 season too.
Now — at best — they might get an abbreviated one. And they might not get one at all.
Earlier this year, the local hockey team cleared a couple of significant hurdles.
It whipped the Detroit Red Wings in a playoff series. It’s one thing to beat the Red Wings on a random Wednesday night in January. It’s something altogether different to win four out five from them in April.
Sure, things did not go as hoped in the next round, but Detroit had been Nashville’s white whale. That the Predators could handle the Red Wings in that fashion figured to create smoother sailing — competitively speaking — from that point forward.
Then came the Summer of Shea. Franchise ownership and management followed through on their claims that they not only were willing, but able to pay what was necessary to hang on to top-level talent. They were tested when defenseman/captain Shea Weber signed a sizable offer sheet with the Philadelphia Flyers, but they did what was necessary to keep the two-time Norris Trophy finalist.
The Predators and their fans had long anticipated the day the team was good enough to feel equal (maybe even superior) to the Red Wings and there was no point at which players were too good and, consequently, out of Nashville’s price range.
Most couldn’t wait for the next season to commence. Yet they had to — and they still are.
Eight years ago, the lockout that wiped out the entire 2004-05 season was considered a necessary evil in these parts. The prevailing notion was — and rightfully so — that for the Predators to stay in business, major changes were needed to the way the NHL conducted its business.
Now the lockout is just a nuisance. And a lengthy one at that.
Everyone knew at the moment the owners locked out the players on Sept. 16 that it was likely part of the season would be lost. That was fine with the Predators, who basically had all their forward lines intact, a good chunk of their defense settled and no question about the quality of their goaltender.
The mindset within the organization was that continuity would give the Predators an edge when training camps were condensed, and a fast start to the season, however many games, would be crucial.
In that regard, the work stoppage was not necessarily a terrible thing. The longer it’s gone on, the more that advantage has been negated. With players some spread throughout the world on different teams in different systems, and others left to skate on their own or with a small group of teammates day after day after day, the possibility of a seamless transition into this season diminishes.
Now there is the all too real possibility that there will be no season at all.
Daly effectively set a doomsday date with his radio appearance. Unlike all the hubbub with the Mayan calendar, this is real.
If another three weeks pass without a resolution, the NHL will lose another entire season to labor issues. That means no chance for the Predators to try on their newfound confidence. No free Frosties or flying catfish. No “I like it, I love it.”
For Predators fans who were so looking forward to 2012-13 — in whatever form — it really will feel like the end of the world.