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NHL labor talks go late for second straight day

The most excitement by late Wednesday: A video crew erects a podium at the talks hotel, raising news conference hopes.

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The most excitement by late Wednesday: A video crew erects a podium at the talks hotel, raising news conference hopes.

Negotiations to end the 82-day NHL lockout took some unexpected turns Wednesday.

There was the podium set up for a news conference that did not happen. The podium even had its own Twitter feed. There was talk the league for the first time since 1971 could play games on Christmas.

And there was the unexpected sight of players association senior counsel Steve Fehr sharing pizza with reporters assembled at a New York hotel while the league and union tried to forge a new collective bargaining agreement that would save the threatened season.

Neither side was forthcoming as to what was discussed, though there were sketchy media reports that a 10-year deal was being examined with an out clause that either side could exercise after eight years.

One thing was sure: The second consecutive day of face-to-face talks between six owners, including the Lightning's Jeff Vinik, and a group of 17 players, down one from Tuesday's discussions but including Tampa Bay's Marty St. Louis and B.J. Crombeen, was intense.

It included offers, counteroffers and players scurrying between rooms during internal discussions. The talks broke up around 12:45 a.m. The Jets' Ron Hainsey, speaking for the union, said the sides had "very candid discussions" and would resume talking later today.

The NHL also held a board of governors meeting Wednesday.

For the second consecutive day, neither commissioner Gary Bettman nor players association executive director Donald Fehr attended the negotiating sessions, though they were at the hotel and believed part of the discussions within their constituencies.

At issue is the players' demand that all current contracts be honored even as their share of revenue is expected to plunge to 50 percent from 57 percent.

Owners also want contracts subsequent to entry-level deals capped at five years and unrestricted free agency at age 28 or after eight years in the league. The old labor deal allowed it at age 27 or seven years in the league. Revenue sharing between the teams also is an issue.

The day began around 10 a.m. with the board of governors meeting. That lasted about two hours and was followed by Bettman saying he was "pleased" with the latest negotiating process.

Bettman declined to take questions at a news conference.

"We are pleased with the process that is ongoing, and out of respect for that process, I don't have anything else to say," he said.

Some executives spoke briefly as they scurried on New York streets and hopped into cars. No details emerged, but the mood seemed positive.

"We feel good about the information we got," new Blue Jackets president John Davidson said.

The Maple Leafs' Larry Tanenbaum, also one of the owners participating in the negotiations, also painted an optimistic picture as he walked the few blocks to the hotel hosting the meetings.

"We're going to continue to talk up until we get a deal," he said. "All I can say is as long as we're talking, we're hopeful."

Information from Times wires was used in this report.

NHL labor talks go late for second straight day 12/05/12 [Last modified: Thursday, December 6, 2012 1:03am]
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