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Crosby: 'Last-minute' decision to attend NHL talks

| Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012, 1:28 p.m.
The Penguins' Sidney Crosby works out at Southpointe in September 2012. Chaz Palla | Tribune Review

The sudden departure of franchise player Sidney Crosby — not the unexpected arrival of franchise goalie Marc-Andre Fleury — caused a stir among the dozens of fans who attended Penguins players' practice at Southpointe on Tuesday.

Crosby and teammate Craig Adams, the club union rep, skated for less than an hour.

They hurriedly exited the facility just after 11 a.m. to catch a flight for New York, where the NHL and Players' Association gathered for a negotiating meeting.

“It was last minute,” Crosby said.

Neither Crosby nor Adams had planned to attend the New York meeting as of Monday, but a union conference call that night forced a change in plans, Crosby said.

Adams declined to provide details of that call, but teammate Pascal Dupuis said Tuesday that the ongoing labor dispute between the NHL and union was now mostly about the guaranteeing of current deals and structural issues, such as entry-level contracts and free agency.

Several Penguins players said they also believed the manner in which guaranteed contracts will be honored was the major barrier between the NHL and union.

That sentiment suggested owners and players had bridged the gap on a timetable for a 50/50 split of revenue on the next labor deal — though neither league nor union officials would confirm an agreement on that issue.

Union executive director Donald Fehr spoke before the meeting began around 3 p.m. Tuesday and said any proposal from the NHL to modify a previous offer to honor existing contracts with deferred payments would not “end the matter” of the labor dispute.

“There are still other things that are important, but it certainly would matter in and of itself,” he said.

The lockout of players will reach its 53rd day Wednesday.

Tuesday's meeting was sparked by lengthy face-to-face negotiations between deputy commissioner Bill Daly and union special counsel Steve Fehr on Saturday.

Tuesday's meeting, held at an undisclosed location in New York, lasted more than seven hours and ended just before 11 p.m.

Daly declined to characterize the meeting but confirmed in an email that negotiations will resume Wednesday.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman was unlikely to publicly comment, league officials said.

The union reported 13 players attended the meeting, but Crosby's appearance was probably not insignificant. The face of the NHL has closely studied the labor situation and kept in constant contact with Donald Fehr.

Crosby had attended four previous meetings. At two of those, the union presented a proposal, and his other appearance came at a larger players meeting in New York two days before the lockout was enacted.

The NHL has canceled games through November, but there are plans to play at least 60 games if the season can begin during the first week of December. The NBA lost 16 games to a lockout last season but played 66 games when that league returned last Christmas.

Crosby, speaking Monday at Southpointe, said the NBA lockout model has been talked about among players.

“Everyone wants to compare, and whether you can read into that completely — I don't think you want to,” he said. “It does have some resemblance.”

Rob Rossi is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at rrossi@tribweb.com or 412-380-5635.

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