Even for die-hard hockey fans, it's easy to be torn when it comes to keeping up with the NHL's ongoing labor squabble.
Fans obviously care about when the owners and players will agree on a new collective bargaining agreement because that could have an effect on when the 2012-13 season begins, or if it will be played at all.
However, bringing oneself to understand what the players and owners are actually fighting over is something that requires either super-human patience or a Juris Doctor and a passion for labor laws.
For example, take the issue of hockey-related revenues. At first glance it seems simple enough; the owners and players negotiate over what percentage of those revenues belong to which side and move along.
Of course, it's not even close to being that simple because the two sides can't even agree on what constitutes hockey-related revenues in the first place. So, even though on Tuesday the owners offered the players a larger share of that revenue than they did in their previous proposal, that gesture was practically meaningless. In fact, the biggest obstacle in getting a new CBA done could be the battle over what should fall under the umbrella of hockey-related revenues.
Unfortunately, the last CBA, which was agreed upon only after a lockout wiped out the 2004-05 season, is not a great help when it comes to understanding the issue.
The previous labor pact describes HRR as money "derived or earned from, relating to or arising directly or indirectly out of the playing of NHL hockey games or NHL-related events in which current NHL players participate or in which current NHL players' names and likenesses are used, by each such club or the league, or attributable directly to the club or the league from a club- affiliated entity or league-affiliated entity."
Did you get all that? Me neither. And that's only a blurb from the first page of Article 50, Section 1 of the CBA. All told, there are about 15 pages of legalese devoted to the subject in the document and a sizeable part of that section could change before a new CBA is agreed upon.
Luckily for them, both the owners and players have people on their sides that do understand this stuff inside and out. However, the casual fan only needs to know that owners would like to limit the amount of revenues that are considered to be hockey-related. Obviously, for the players, the more things that are tabbed as HRR, the better.
So, if you happen to read a NHL labor story over the course of these negotiations and see that the owners offered the players a 50/50 split of hockey-related revenues, know that there's way more to it than that.
Then go back to caring about the one question that pertains to fans in this messy situation: Will I get to watch NHL hockey this year?
Unfortunately, it's anybody's guess as to when that question finally will be answered.
EUROPEAN VACATION FOR NHL STARS?
Back in the spring, the NHL Premiere games -- the ones staged in Europe that have kicked off every regular season since 2007-08 -- were canceled due to uncertainty regarding the new CBA.
However, there is still a chance NHL stars will be skating professionally in Europe during the upcoming season, but only if a lockout wipes out some or all of the 2012-13 schedule.
Numerous players, including Evgeni Malkin of the Pittsburgh Penguins and Tampa Bay Lightning stars Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis, have already expressed interest in playing in one of Europe's many professional hockey leagues.
It would not be surprising to see those players or many others take their talents across the pond like they did during last lockout, but it's still way too soon to talk about it. In fact, the Swedish Elite League recently said it wouldn't allow contracts for NHL players unless the labor impasse cancels the entire season.
St. Louis told the Tampa Bay Times that players "have to be patient before you go to Europe, but it's definitely an option."
Perhaps, players are already talking about waiting out a potential lockout in Europe because they're trying to play mind games against the owners. Maybe they think that letting the owners know they'll be all right if the season is canceled will give them a better negotiating stance.
In reality, however, it will be months before we see the likes of Malkin, St. Louis or Stamkos suiting up for Dynamo Moscow or any other European club.