Face it. Most of us only do things when faced with a deadline.

For the NHL and the players union - which will resume talks, with federal mediators by their sides, on Wednesday - that deadline is almost upon them.

From here, the sides have just two weeks, maximum, to get a deal done.

Why two weeks?

Gary Bettman, the NHL commissioner, says teams need to play at least a 48-game season to protect the game's supposed integrity. (The game's integrity has disappeared because of the third work stoppage under Bettman, but that's another story.)

In order to play 48 games, the season would have to start by Jan. 5. That would give teams a 14-week schedule, with the regular season ending on April 13, the original date of season finales. That way, the playoff schedule would not be altered.

In a 14-week season, teams would alternate three- and four-game weeks. (Trying to compress more games into that limited space would be ludicrous and would compromise the game's supposed integrity.)

In order for that to happen, a deal would have to be completed by Christmas. That would give teams 11 days before the season started. That time would be needed for players to return from Europe and to have a short training camp.

The clock is ticking, and it says here a deal will get done within two weeks. The sides are close on most issues - teams' salary-cap maximums and amnesty buyouts will be battles - and the approaching deadline will increase everyone's urgency.

If a deal was done sooner and the season started Dec. 31, more than 48 games could be played. For that to happen, a collective bargaining agreement would have to be in place by Dec. 20.

More games mean more money. That's something both sides won't argue about. And, so, yes, there is suddenly extra incentive at the bargaining table.

When the labor dispute ends, will the fans come flocking back?

Flyers fans have shown remarkable loyalty during the lockout. Shawn Tilger, the team's senior vice president of business operations, said Tuesday that "less than 1 percent" of the team's 18,280 season-ticket holders have canceled their tickets during the work stoppage. That means fewer than 182 fans have been angry enough to fight through the red tape to get their money back.

That said, based on the hundreds of e-mails and tweets I have received, fans will be slower to return than in the past.

One fan, trying to send a message to the league and players, has asked people to boycott the openers.

P.J. Boyle, a former South Jersey resident who is now retired in Florida, said he has "lived all over the country," but that "one constant for me" has been rooting for the Flyers and watching every game on his NHL TV package. Not anymore. He feels fans have been taken for granted, and he sent an e-mail asking for Ed Snider's address because he wanted to mail a package to the Flyers' founder.

"I'd like to send him all my accumulated Flyers memorabilia from the previous 45 years of active fandom," he wrote, listing many items, including a John LeClair jersey and bobblehead, a toy Zamboni in Flyers colors, and a scrapbook with newspaper clippings from the 35-game unbeaten streak in 1979-80.

"I'm thinking Mr. Snider might need this stuff more than I do at this point," Boyle added. "Perhaps he could have a garage sale to help his financial situation. But more than that, perhaps he would receive a message about the damage being done to his franchise and his league by the idiocy now in progress."

The idiocy is close to ending. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.