The NHL and its players are hoping no news is good news.
Representatives from the league and its players’ union met in an undisclosed location in New York at 3 p.m. on Tuesday in hopes of cracking the lock on what has been a 52-day work stoppage.
Although NHLPA executive director Don Fehr agreed to speak to reporters before the negotiating session, both sides agreed to refrain from commenting after the meeting, which is the first formal round of negotiations since Oct. 18.
“The players’ view has always been to keep negotiating until we find a way to get an agreement and you sort of stay at it day by day,” Fehr said, “so it’s very good to be getting back to the table.
“We hope that this time it produces more progress than we’ve seen in the past, and that we can find a way to make an agreement and to get the game back on the ice as soon as possible.”
There have been rumblings that the framework of an agreement could be in place by the end of this week and that the NHL is targeting an ambitious return date of Black Friday, Nov. 23. That is the date NBC kicks off its national television schedule with a game between the Bruins and Rangers.
“We’re hopeful that we’ll start bargaining and we’ll continue bargaining until we find a way to make a deal,” Fehr said.
According to the NHLPA’s website, 13 players were expected to attend Tuesday’s meeting – Sidney Crosby, David Backes, Marty Biron, Craig Adams, Chris Campoli, Milan Lucic, Kevin Westgarth, Steve Montador, Shawn Thornton, Johan Hedberg, Ron Hainsey, Manny Malhotra and Mathieu Darche.
Tuesday’s meeting was the offshoot of Saturday’s long private discussion between NHLPA special counsel Steve Fehr and NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly that lasted more than eight hours.
At issue is the NHL’s proposal to “make whole” on players’ current contracts in exchange for a 50-50 split in hockey-related revenues.
Other issues from the owners’ Oct. 16 proposal are also at play, including a five-year cap on all contracts; entry-level contracts being reduced from three to two years; and unrestricted free agency beginning at age 28 or after eight years of service.
So far, the NHL has cancelled 327 regular-season games, including the Jan. 1 Winter Classic at Michigan Stadium.