Barons fans have experienced a rare treat that probably will never occur again in Oklahoma City.
During the lockout, players with NHL experience in entry level contracts are allowed to play in the American Hockey League.
No franchise has been blessed with more “star power” than the Barons, the Edmonton Oilers' Triple-A affiliate.
Oklahoma City's roster features two former No. 1 overall draft picks, an NHL All-Star and a fabulous rookie defenseman being compared to former NHL greats.
But how much longer will Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Jordan Eberle and Justin Schultz play in the Cox Convention Center?
Could Friday's game with San Antonio and a New Year's Eve game with the Texas Stars be the Fab Four's final games with the Barons?
Optimists claim NHL owners and the NHL Players Association will be forced to broker a deal soon to salvage a 48-game season and avoid a lost season similar to eight years ago.
Pessimists claim Eberle, Hall, Schultz and Nugent-Hopkins could play all season in Oklahoma City because the two sides are too stubborn to iron out delicate details to end the stalemate.
The lockout already has surpassed 100 days.
The next step is whether NHL players file a “disclaimer of interest,” a quicker way to decertify the union. Breaking up the NHLPA would prohibit players from collectively bargaining as a union but would file an antitrust lawsuit in an attempt to force owners to hammer out a deal.
It was reported that 706 players voted in favor of disbanding the union while only 22 voted against it. The union's executive board has until Wednesday to decide whether to file the “disclaimer of interest.”
In a pre-emptive move, owners filed an antitrust lawsuit against the players.
Whether the legal jockeying will be decided in court is uncertain. The two sides haven't traded proposals since Dec. 6, when significant progress was made. NHLPA boss Donald Fehr claimed the two sides were close. NHL commissioner Gary Bettman vehemently disagreed.
The league already has canceled 625 games through Jan. 14, more than half of the regular-season schedule in addition to the Winter Classic and All-Star Game.
Bettman said a minimum 48-game regular season would have to be played or the entire season will be canceled. To meet that demand, games probably need to start by late January, which is why Jan. 15 is viewed as the “season-is-cancelled” deadline.
In the meantime, Barons fans can watch the Edmonton Oilers' four cornerstone players.
Eberle, who played in last year's NHL All-Star Game, has scored 40 points. He's tied for the AHL scoring lead with Schultz, a rookie defenseman who has taken the league by storm.
Hall, the No. 1 overall pick in 2010, has two years of NHL experience. He joined the Barons a couple of weeks late coming off shoulder surgery but has displayed blazing speed and a unique knack for scoring goals.
The best of the group might be Nugent-Hopkins, a 19-year-old wonder kid who was the No. 1 overall pick in 2011. Currently playing with Canada's junior team in an international tournament in Russia, Nugent-Hopkins almost won Rookie of the Year last season.
Oklahoma City has been a .500 team due to penalty killing and defensive deficiencies. But the Fab Four has put on an entertaining offensive show, combining for an astonishing 52 goals in 28 games.
It's uncertain how long the Fab Four will play in OKC. But it's obvious why the Oilers gave Hall a $42 million extension; Eberle a $40 million extension; and Nugent-Hopkins and Schultz will receive big-money deals in the future. For as long as the lockout lasts, Barons fans are experiencing a rare treat.