NHL, union meet again but don't talk money
NEW YORK — The NHL and players' association met for a third straight day Sunday and again avoided the troublesome money issues fueling the lockout.
“We did not discuss core economic issues, as was the plan,” NHLPA special counsel Steve Fehr said after meeting for five hours with the NHL. “We discussed health and safety, drug testing, including more discussion of drug testing, medical care, etc. Also a number of things in the CBA legal area of player movements.”
The drug policy was a key component of talks Friday when the sides got together for the first time since the NHL imposed the lockout Sept. 16. On Saturday, the sides focused on clarifications of definitions of what makes up hockey-related revenue — a pot that exceeded $3 billion.
“It was a productive day,” Fehr said Sunday. “I would say it's good that we were talking. It's true that we could've done this last week or a week before or a week before that, but it's a lot better than doing it three weeks from now.”
Because of difficulty in finding common ground on how to split up that money, the league and union instead concentrated on secondary issues that also will be included in any new agreement.
“I hate to sound like a broken record, but we need some movement on the economic issues. We need some movement on the system issues,” NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said. “We need them to be scheduled as the subject of a meeting, and right now the union is not prepared to do that.”
The entire preseason was canceled Thursday, and regular-season games — set to begin Oct. 11 — soon could be called off, too.
Negotiations Sunday were conducted at the league office without NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr or NHL commissioner Gary Bettman. They met privately Friday and Saturday.
“I think that may demonstrate more than anything else the nature of the issues we're talking about,” Daly said about the absences of Bettman and Fehr. “We're really talking about kind of micro issues, issues we deal with on a day-to-day basis that don't necessarily rise to the commissioner's level or the executive director's level. So they will be at the table when we're talking about the issues that are really going to get this deal done or not.”
There was a thought that talks might continue Monday, but that doesn't seem likely: The NHL wants to meet with its clubs first.
“We covered a lot of things over the last three days,” Daly said. “We both have a lot of homework projects to do and drafts we owe each other on certain things. We think (Monday) would be best used for that purpose. What we did (Sunday) and the last two days, I don't think any of that is going to get a deal done. But they are all necessary elements of the deal.”