"Gary. Sit down. Zip it. I got this." (Image: Sportsnet, CP/Chris Young)

To hell with it, let’s get our hopes up. Seriously, jump in with me, both feet. Just like it’s the only way to love, I feel like it’s time to commit to the fact that there will be NHL hockey this year. At least that way if we get burnt again we can truly justify ending the relationship for good.

Over at the National Post, excellent writer and poor defenseman (the latter are his words) Sean Fitz-Gerald wrote a story today about negotiating, and why the sudden drop-off in public rhetoric from both the NHL and NHLPA is a good thing.

He turned to experienced negotiator George Smith, now a teacher at Queen’s University in Kingston, to get some thoughts on the change, and it was his comments that pushed me over the edge (so when this all comes crashing down, Smith – and Fitz-Gerald – are who I’m yelling at first).

From that column, a few quotes. First, the best of the bunch:

“I think the signs are good on a number of levels. They’ve each expended all of their ammunition, and now they realize it’s better to work out a deal than have a knife fight. Knives leave scars, you know?”

Absolutely. We’ve seen the preposterous proposal from the owners, we’ve seen the release of an offer online, we’ve seen the PA extend three offers to the owners, and plenty of other forms of time-wasting and posturing. Now it’s time to get real if we’re going to have hockey back. Which we are, of course.

On Gary Bettman, and the NHL’s recent reliance on Bill Daly to do the negotiating:

“Rightly or wrongly, he has chosen to make himself the face of the owners, and the face of what a lot of people are angry about in terms of not getting a deal done. It’s part of the getting-yourself-in-from-the-end-of-the-gangplank that you start to pull back on the people who are seen as the aggressors.”

And that’s a sentiment that was proffered early on by the likes of Elliotte Friedman and others: maybe Bettman needs to be pulled out of the open to get the PA to stop shooting at the NHL. They really loathe that guy, so your best chance of progress is putting him in a mid-size chest, buying a lock (fitting!), and keeping him out of sight until a new deal is ratified.

Michael McCann is the director of the Sports Law Institute at Vermont Law School, and Fitz-Gerald also got his take on the sudden cease in public posturing:

“I think it’s a positive. We saw that to some extent in the NFL and NBA lockouts where, shortly before agreeing on a deal, there was less comment made to the media off the record, and fewer public statements … so I think there’s the optimism that comes from silence.”

Okay, good, good…

“I’m more optimistic now that the NHL and the NHLPA will strike a deal, because of the fact that we aren’t seeing the rhetoric; we aren’t seeing the comments. It’s a signal that they don’t want to jeopardize some progress that’s been made.

On the other side, though, if something were to go wrong and both sides walked away at this point, after getting so much closer, “it would be a disaster,”

Oh dear god.

So, the coming weeks hold a ton of importance for hockey fans. But for those of you on the fringe, annoyed and tempted to walk away, let’s just get through this month together. From all I’m seeing and hearing, come December, fans could be getting an early holiday gift.