November 8, 2012

NHL negotiations ongoing in secret

But time becomes a bigger factor every day a new collective bargaining agreement isn't reached.

The Associated Press

NEW YORK - Negotiations between the NHL and the locked-out players' association ended after nearly six hours Wednesday. Just as they did a night earlier, the sides agreed to get right back to the bargaining table.

Representatives for the owners and players will resume talks Thursday, marking the third straight day they will meet face to face. NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly and union special counsel Steve Fehr also met alone Saturday when in-person talks restarted for the first time since Oct. 18.

The sides met for a total of about 13 hours over Tuesday and Wednesday at an undisclosed location in New York. Neither the NHL nor the NHLPA made any immediate statements.

On the 53rd day of the lockout, the sides discussed revenue sharing between teams and held talks on the "make-whole" provision, which involves the payment of player contracts that are already in effect.

Those hot-button topics are scheduled to be on Thursday's agenda, too.

Eight players were in attendance for Wednesday's talks, but a handful of players -- including Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby -- who took part Tuesday left New York to try to avoid an impending storm that brought snow to the area, the union said.

There was already common ground before negotiations began Tuesday. The players' union adhered to the league's request to keep the meeting location a secret. With no outside distractions, the sides talked from afternoon until night.

Time is becoming a bigger factor every day a deal isn't reached. The lockout, which went into effect Sept. 16 after the previous collective bargaining agreement expired, has already forced the cancellation of 327 regular-season games -- including the New Year's Day outdoor Winter Classic in Michigan.

Whether any of the games that have been called off through Nov. 30 can be rescheduled if an agreement is made soon hasn't been determined. But the NHL has already said that a full 82-game season won't be played.

Back in October, the players' association responded to an NHL offer with three of its own, but all of those were quickly dismissed by the league -- leading to nearly three weeks without face-to-face discussions. Daly and Steve Fehr kept in regular contact by phone and agreed to meet last weekend.

Both sides have made proposals that included a 50-50 split of hockey-related revenues.

The NHL has moved toward the players' side in the contentious issue of the "make-whole" provision and whose share of the economic pie that money will come from. But work will still need to be done to get an agreement.

Other core economic issues -- mainly the split of hockey-related revenue -- along with contract lengths, arbitration and free agency will also need to be agreed upon before a deal can be reached.

The players' association accepted a salary cap in the previous CBA, which wasn't reached until after the entire 2004-05 season was canceled because of a lockout. The union doesn't want to absorb the majority of concessions this time after the NHL recorded record revenue that exceeded $3 billion last season.

"The issues the players are concerned about remain the same," NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr said Tuesday. "The players haven't seen any need to go backward, given the history of the last negotiations and given the level of revenue increase since then. Player-contracting rights are very important to them.

"Before we have any agreement, both sides have to see everything on paper and make sure that they all understand it right. That's about all I can say about it at this stage. I don't want to prejudge or indicate that I have any particular impressions or expectations. That's what the meetings are for," he said.

 

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