Gary Bettman told assembled media today that the NHL would lock out its players come September 15th if the ongoing CBA negotiations do not create a new deal by then.
According to the Sporting News, Fehr remarked that the Players' Association will finally send a counter-proposal to the league on Tuesday, after which it's expected that negotiations will really get serious. Fehr said that revenue sharing continues to be a hot topic and that there's a "meaningful gulf" separating the league and the union on that issue.
As a reminder, Don Fehr told the media this before August 1st:
All I've said is Sept. 15 is not a magic date unless someone wants to make it so," Fehr said. "There's nothing that happens on Sept. 15 if we don't have an agreement, provided nobody says we're going to go on strike or says we're going to lock the doors.
While the league is certainly going to spin their position as though they've tried to create a new CBA and the players are dawdling, it's important to take note of what Fehr said. A lockout is not an automatic thing. The NHL has to actively decide to keep players from playing the next season under the old CBA (something explained much better here by Eric Macramalla of Offside: A Sports Law Blog)
So while the league is hemming and hawing about a delayed counter-proposal by the players, what they're really doing is distracting people away from the fact that "let's play under the old CBA" is, in fact a counter-proposal.
...and that the league is the one who actually has to decide that they're going to throw away hockey games to get what they want.
Not one hockey fan wants a lockout. There certainly seems to be a workable solution in there that both sides can live with prior to September 15th. Unfortunately, it appears as though the league is willing to start wasting days on the calendar to get a deal that's more fair to them. As a business decision, not one of us can blame them. As a fan of hockey, this sucks.