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NHL, players union talking, but not negotiating

| Saturday, Nov. 10, 2012, 8:12 p.m.

Talks between the NHL and Players' Association have not gone dark, though negotiations failed to carry over into a fifth consecutive day.

Small groups representing both sides met for lunch Saturday in New York City, and deputy commissioner Bill Daly and union special counsel Steve Fehr planned to meet Sunday to work out logistics for future group negotiating sessions.

Owners who attended a contentious session Friday did not attend the lunch Saturday.

Owners and players remain at odds on how to divide revenue that was a record $3.3 billion last season. Owners' revenue sharing, honoring current deals and contract issues such as term limits and free agency also divide league and players.

Negotiations last week sparked optimism, but people in those sessions said a new labor deal was never close.

“There was talking, which was good,” said Craig Adams, the Penguins' union rep who attended a session Tuesday. “I wouldn't say we were close on anything in terms of a new deal, but at least we were talking and actually negotiating.”

Adams previously had resisted using the term “negotiations” because he said the NHL was not working off proposals from the union.

NHL officials have expressed frustration with NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr, who on Friday defended himself against reports that he had not shared with players full details of an offer the league made a day earlier.

Adams emphatically dismissed those reports and others that the NHL has offered to fully guarantee current contracts as part of a revised “Make Whole” proposal.

“It's not true,” he said, adding he was on a negotiating committee conference call Thursday that addressed an NHL offer that owners believed reached a 50/50 revenue split and a revised method to guarantee current players' deals.

“They never made that offer.”

The NHL has not released details of its latest proposals.

Adams said a memo sent by Fehr to players late Thursday did not include every detail of the owners' offer but that all details were shared over several conference calls.

Fehr, who famously led the Major League Baseball players' union for nearly three decades before retiring in 2009, has been praised by Adams and Penguins players such as Sidney Crosby and Matt Cooke for improving the lines of communication within the league.

Owners locked out players Sept. 15 when the last labor deal expired. Games through November as well as the New Year's Day Winter Classic have been canceled.

The NHL has plans for at least a 60-game season if games can begin by the first week of December.

Penguins players who practiced last week at Southpointe said the recent negotiations were important, but they did not expect a deal to be agreed upon by weekend's end.

“(The owners) want games, and we want to play — everybody has that in common, especially right now,” Marc-Andre Fleury said. “You just hope things don't go bad and everybody stops talking.”

The hockey world's focus will shift to Toronto on Monday for Hall of Fame festivities, though NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said Friday he would skip the celebration to resume bargaining.

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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