NEW YORK – The NHL put the course of ongoing labor negotiations back in the hands of the players’ association, and left union head Donald Fehr with “some things to consider” Friday night.
The fourth straight day of negotiations provided few details, and the sides broke up in the early evening. The lockout has lasted 55 days and there is still uncertainty whether there will be a hockey season.
Players made a pair of proposals Wednesday, and the NHL responded with one Thursday. No new official offers were exchanged Friday. The last of three sessions broke up after about two hours.
Fehr and his associates left the offices of the NHL’s lawyers, to conduct a conference call with the players’ association executive board and negotiators.
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said the league is available to continue talking as soon as the union is ready. Neither side ruled out getting together again Friday night or over the weekend.
“Whatever it takes. We’re available,” Bettman said. “It’s always better to be together and talk when there is something to talk about.”
The league has already called off 327 regular-season games, and said a full season won’t be played. The NHL is in danger of having a lockout wipe out a full season for the second time in seven years.
Bettman declined to say if these talks have moved the sides any closer to an agreement.
The lockout began Sept. 16 after the collective bargaining agreement expired, and both sides rejected proposals Oct. 18. The belief is that the players’ association has agreed to a 50-50 split of hockey-related revenues, but that division wouldn’t kick in until the third year of the deal.
During a second consecutive day of negotiations Wednesday, the players’ association made an offer on revenue sharing in which richer teams would help out poorer ones, and another proposal regarding the “make-whole” provision to guarantee full payment of all existing multiyear player contracts.
Revenue sharing and the make-whole provision are major hurdles.
Along with the split of hockey-related revenue and other economic issues, contract lengths, arbitration and free agency also must be agreed upon.
The union doesn’t want to absorb the majority of concessions this time after the NHL had record revenue that exceeded $3 billion last season.