Let me just start by saying that I'm not an expert on the lockout. My understanding of all the technical aspects isn't crystal clear. I don't religiously follow the daily back and forth between the two sides. I don't have any insider telling me when and how the labour dispute will be settled. I'm not going to pretend that I do.
I do know a fair bit about the fan's mentality, though. I am a dedicated supporter of the game that I love, and I do understand the sheer frustration being experienced by any hockey fan this side of the Atlantic. I have a decent sense of how fans will react when presented with news, as well as the current approval consensus for both sides of the negotiating table. That's why when I got to thinking about it, what both the NHL and the NHLPA are doing right now makes no sense.
The two sides will meet for the first time this weekend since before the lockout was invoked, which was over two weeks ago. Instead, it seems both sides have focused on winning the PR battle, each trying to convince the fans the other side is to blame for the lockout through tweets, statements and videos and therefore making it seem that they're the good guys.
In recent weeks, I have noticed from talking with hockey fans and from reading comments on many different hockey sites that the average hockey fan is pretty cheesed off. This was the same a few weeks ago, in the days and weeks leading up to the lockout. However, back then the fans were cheesed off primarily at the NHL. The conventional image of the time was that good-guy Don Fehr was open to negotiating 24/7 and desperately wanted to get a deal done before the lockout. It was also believed that Gary Bettman was a tyrant who never wanted to negotiate and just wanted the entire hockey world to suffer yet again. At that point, the NHLPA was clearly in favour with the fans, and therefore was winning the PR battle by a significant margin.
However, right now it's different. Fans' anger is no longer limited to the NHL. Public disapproval for both Gary Bettman and Don Fehr is on the rise. Both the men are disliked in the public image, because neither of them has taken the steps necessary to ensure that there even is a hockey season. These steps are taken by negotiating around the clock until a deal is reached. These steps are taken by talking more often, and getting a better sense of exactly what the other side wants, and getting a good idea of what your side is willing to give up too. These steps all stem from sitting down and trying to work out a deal.
Here's where the irony comes in. Instead of taking the steps to working out a new and equal CBA, both the NHL and NHLPA are entirely focused on winning the PR battle. By focusing on improving their public image, and therefore not negotiating, their public image is dropping off significantly. This isn't specific to one side, either. Both sides are experiencing it.
Trying to win the PR battle after showing you're not willing to negotiate is moronic. If either side really wanted to become more popular with the fans, they should make a concerted effort to schedule meetings as often as possible. That's not going to happen though. Gary Bettman and Don Fehr and just going to keep thrashing around in their quicksand, too ignorant to realize that they're pushing themselves further away from what they want.
This might take a while.