NHL, players don't budge during 5 hours of talks
NEW YORK — Five hours of talks in two sessions between the NHL and the players' association did little to move the sides closer to a deal in the nearly one-month lockout.
The NHL's top two executives — commissioner Gary Bettman and deputy commissioner Bill Daly — met with the NHLPA's main negotiators — executive director Donald Fehr and special counsel Steve Fehr — for nearly an hour Wednesday morning to assess where the sides were on Day 25 of the NHL lockout, but there was no concrete discussions on the troublesome core economic issues preventing a deal.
A four-hour session that stretched into evening centered on player health and safety issues along with other miscellaneous legal topics. The health issues involved seeking multiple medical opinions on injuries, and who should make determinations when a player is healthy enough to return to action after being hurt.
“We have some disagreements in those areas,” Daly said. “When you get to this point of the discussions on some of those areas, that is to be expected so we're kind of refining some of the things we continue to have disagreements on.
“We had no discussion of the major economic issues or system issues, so that continues to be a disappointment from our perspective.”
The sides will meet again Thursday — which should have been NHL opening day — but there are still no plans to delve into how the sides will split up hockey-related revenue that was in excess of $3 billion last season.
Steve Fehr took a more optimistic view of what was discussed Wednesday.
“You often don't know whether you're making progress until you look back on it,” he said.
“We were just sort of discussing the overall status of the bargaining and where the parties are.”
The NHL is eager to get a new proposal from the union on the main economic issues, but the players contend that they have moved closer to the league's demands in their previous offers while the NHL has only sought to take more away from the union in each proposal it has made.
“I think we're making progress in a number of the areas that were discussed today,” Steve Fehr said. “They were good discussions. It's a shame that they are going on in the midst of a lockout when we could be doing it while we're playing or we could've been doing it a month ago or two months ago.
“I wouldn't say (talks) are dead in the water. The sides are in constant communication. I think we have a pretty good sense of where each other is.”
However, Donald Fehr has floated the idea that the longer the lockout goes on, the players might seek to make an offer that doesn't include a salary cap — the very issue that led to the cancellation of the 2004-05 season. The collective bargaining agreement that finally ended that lockout seven years ago expired last month.
“None of those comments were a surprise to me,” Daly said. “If that is the direction they choose to go in, that's up to them. I don't make the decisions for them.
They've suggested they want to get the players back on the ice soon. I can pretty much assure you if they make that proposal, it won't get the players back on the ice soon.”
If discussions can get jump-started, the sides haven't ruled out meeting again Friday.