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Winter Classic is out, meetings set for this weekend

NHL Players Association executive director Donald Fehr said the cancellation of the Winter Classic is 'unnecessary and unfortunate.' (AP file)

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Friday, Nov. 2, 2012, 1:10 p.m.

The Winter Classic is out, but there are apparent inroads between the NHL and Players' Association.

NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly and union special counsel Steve Fehr will meet this weekend at an undisclosed location. They will attempt to find common ground on many of the issues dividing their sides. The goal is to work toward future meetings that would focus on only the core economic disagreement between the league and union.

The outdoor Classic, staged annually since Jan. 1, 2008, will resume during a future NHL season, though the league stopped short of projecting a Classic for New Year's Day 2014 when announcing the cancellation of the 2013 game Friday afternoon.

Daly cited “logistical demands” in scrapping the 2013 Classic slated for Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, Mich. The Detroit Red Wings were to play the Toronto Maple Leafs.

The showcase and Hockeytown Winter Festival events will return to Michigan and feature the Red Wings and Maple Leafs as part of the next Classic.

The ongoing labor dispute destroyed the Classic, which would have started the NBC broadcast slate of games.

NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr issued a statement in which he described the Classic's cancellation as “unnecessary and unfortunate.”

The NHL limited its financial obligation to the University of Michigan by canceling the Classic on Friday. A contract with the school was worded to accommodate a work stoppage, including a lockout. The league will be required to pay the university $100,000 to walk away from the Classic.

Owners authorized a lockout Sept. 15 when the previous labor agreement expired.

The NHL presented an offer Oct. 16, but it called for an immediate 50/50 revenue split. The union countered two days later with three proposals that outlined a gradual move toward 50/50. The NHL rejected those offers.

The sides remain divided on revenue and how to guarantee contracts — and second-tier issues such as contract lengths and free agency, Penguins union rep Craig Adams said.

The NHL canceled November games a week ago. Twenty-three of the Penguins's 82 games have been canceled.

Sidney Crosby, one of six Penguins who practiced Friday at Southpointe, said owners and players should strive to preserve as many games as possible.

Any chance of that — NHL commissioner Gary Bettman had said 82 games were possible only if games started Friday — would require a labor deal “in the next couple of weeks,” Crosby said.

“If we can get close to a full season — if you can only get 81, get 81,” Crosby said. “Get as many as you can.”

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

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