Gary Bettman came out recently and said that if the sides can't agree on a new CBA, the players will be locked out. Here's what Bettman said on August 9:
"I re-confirmed something that the union has been told multiple times over the last nine to 12 months. Namely, that time is getting short and the owners are not prepared to operate under this collective bargaining agreement for another season, so we need to get to making a deal and doing it soon."
This was not a threat directed at the players. It was simply a statement of fact designed to remind the players and Donald Fehr that the NHL has no intention whatsoever of playing without a new CBA.
Why the reminder? Fehr has been saying for some time that the sides could start the season without a CBA and work on an agreement while the season gets underway on time.
"The law is that if you don't have a new agreement, and as long as both sides are willing to keep negotiating, you can continue to play under the terms of the old one until you reach an agreement. All I know is that in baseball, there were any number of occasions in which we played while the parties were continuing to negotiate" Fehr said.
So Bettman's statement that the league would lockout the players if a new deal is not reached was designed to set the record straight on how this may proceed. Nothing more. The rhetoric will ramp up, though, the longer this drags. Expect real threats to materialize.