NHL, union to talk again, but without Penguins players

The Penguins' Craig Adams works out at South Point Sept. 2012.
The Penguins' Craig Adams works out at South Point Sept. 2012.
Photo by Chaz Palla | Tribune Review
| Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2012, 2:00 p.m.

Hockey's men in suits are still talking, but they're not saying what about.

The NHL and its Players' Association, who have bargained for about 12 hours at an undisclosed location in New York City over the last two days, will meet again Thursday.

A more than five-plus hour bargaining session Wednesday wrapped about 8 p.m.

The sides released statements confirming Thursday's meeting. However, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr declined further comment. The respective leaders in this labor dispute also declined comment after meeting for more than seven hours Tuesday.

The sides have not met in person for three consecutive days since owners enacted a lockout when the last labor deal expired Sept. 15.

Seven players attended Wednesday's session, down from 13 who were present Tuesday.

High-profile Penguins star Sidney Crosby and team union rep Craig Adams attended the Tuesday meeting. Both players returned to Pittsburgh on Wednesday morning because of a Nor'easter targeting the New York metropolitan area, Crosby said.

The NHL and union are trying to stay mum about details of these meetings because there is a sense from both sides that negotiations are tenuous. However, Adams said in a text message that the vibe Tuesday was “positive and constructive” — though he declined to detail specifics.

The union has targeted revenue-sharing among owners and the method for honoring current contracts as key issues to work out during these negotiations.

Players want clarification on provisions the NHL has made to its “Make Whole” proposal for guaranteeing payment of current contracts. An owners' proposal from Oct. 16 called for a deferred payment of players' deals.

Penguins players such as Brooks Orpik and Matt Cooke have said the union will not agree to any agreement that does not mandate full honoring of current contracts.

Those contracts were signed under the last labor agreement — some terms of which will not carry over when or if a new agreement is reached.

Owners' revenue sharing, the “Make Whole” alterations, escrow payments, and contract issues — specifically maximum length, free-agency and entry-level terms — were the main sticking points in this labor dispute as of Tuesday, Penguins players said.

That sentiment would suggest the owners and players have agreed to an arrangement for a time frame to begin a 50/50 revenue split on the next labor deal.

The meetings this week were sparked by lengthy in-person discussions between NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly and union special counsel Steve Fehr on Saturday. Prior to that session, the NHL and NHLPA had not met face-to-face since Oct. 18.

Wednesday marked Day 53 of the lockout. The NHL canceled games through November and the New Year's Day Winter Classic scheduled for Michigan Stadium between Detroit and Toronto.

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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