I wonder if Gary Bettman overplayed his hand by being so intransigeant and huffing about a lockout so early in the negotiations. I feel that the players, and even the fans, have come to accept the lockout, since it's inevitable. They're prepared for it psychologically, and while they'd rather be playing and earning, they're expecting to go a month or two at least without pay. The PA told them to hold off on big purchases and bank their salaries from last year, they're getting their escrow amounts soon, so the September 15 date might feel more and more like a bureaucratic technicality. So as much sabre-rattling as Mr. Bettman does, it's not scaring anyone, they know what they're in for anyway, the threat has no effect when it's combined with no option to alleviate or eliminate the threat.
"I'm going to punch you in the nose if you don't give me a dollar."
"We both know you're going to punch me in the nose no matter what, and that I won't give you a dollar, so why don't we just get it over with."
As such, now the real deadline might be the January 1 Winter Classic, and the pressure will slowly shift to the owners' side to become more reasonable as the lockout endures into October and November. While they were united behind Mr. Bettman in 2004, I think in this case Geoff Molson and the new Leafs owners, among others, will grow disenchanted at having to pay interest on loans with no revenue coming in. They'll start to think that a 1st round knockout isn't necessary, a decision would suit them fine.