Deputy NHL commissioner Bill Daly appeared on HNIC Radio Wednesday, and when pressed for a "yes" or "no" answer if there would be a 2012-13 season, responded in the affirmative.
NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr, meanwhile, spoke to reporters for about 10 minutes in Toronto ahead of a players' association game involving the likes of Steven Stamkos, P.K. Subban, and Phil Kessel.
When asked about Daly's qualified prediction the NHL will resume this season: "That's good news. I hope he's right. I certainly hope he's right. That's the players' goal, that's what we want to try and do."
The seemingly optimistic Daly statement is tempered by the fact that there are currently no scheduled plans for the league and the players' association to meet again to hammer out a new collective bargaining agreement and end the protracted impasse.
"There does need to be a reason to meet," Daly said. "Given, I guess, where we are, somebody has to have a new idea, or something new to put on the table, to move the process along."
The back-and-forth came on the 95th day of the lockout. So far, a total of 526 regular season games have been cancelled, up to Dec. 30.
Daly also said he expected more game cancellations to be announced this week, and allowed that there's not much time left to salvage a season, which will likely not be less than 48 games, also the amount played in the shortened 1994-95 season.
Disclaimer voting until Thursday
"I don't think setting an absolute [drop dead] date serves a purpose [in negotiations] at this point, but certainly everybody knows the neighbourhood we're talking about," he said.
The players are this week in the process of voting on whether they would like to file a so-called disclaimer of interest, which would grant the players' association's executive board the authority to dissolve the union because of the inability to reach a collective bargaining agreement with the league.
The voting will continue until Thursday, with the board reportedly having until Jan. 2 to file a disclaimer.
Fehr refused to engage any hypothetical questions as to how the process would play out if the players file a disclaimer, deeming it "an internal matter."
The NHL has deemed its lockout legal and that any disclaimer of interest would be a ploy and not bona fide, and are pursuing a ruling on that legality through both the U.S. Federal Court and the National Labor Relations Board.
The players associations for both the NBA and NFL filed disclaimers as a result of their 2011 lockouts. While those disputes ended not long after those developments, sports law experts caution that it's not necessarily a predictor of more conciliatory behaviour in labour disputes. In fact, it could lead to a spate of lawsuits and even more long-term damage to the sport.
There has been considerable damage already, according to recent market research surveys and in the opinion of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who was asked about the lockout in a French television interview on Tuesday.
Fehr acknowledged as much to reporters.
"Any time you are preventing the fans from watching the sport they dearly love, which provides the business that we're all involved in, that's not a good thing," Fehr said. "It needs to be ended as soon as possible. We certainly hope we can do that. We certainly want to tell the fans we're doing everything we can to do it."With files from The Associated Press