Renewed talks bring optimism in NHL labor bargaining

NEW YORK — A secret bargaining session has done some good in the NHL labor fight, enough that the sides plan to get back to the bargaining table soon.

Deputy commissioner Bill Daly and players association lawyer Steve Fehr met for long stretches Saturday in an undisclosed location, the first time the sides had gotten together for formal talks in more than two weeks.

"We had a series of meetings over the course of the day and had a good, frank discussion on the most important issues separating us," Daly said in an email to the media Sunday. "We plan to meet again early in the week."

The sides tentatively were set to meet again Tuesday in New York, ESPN reported.

The sides hadn't met since Oct. 18, when the league rejected three union proposals, but a series of phone conversations between Daly and Fehr last week did enough to prompt the resumption of talks. It is unclear how long Daly and Fehr met Saturday, but the discussions lasted well into the night. Some reports said they ended around 1 Sunday morning.

"I agree with what Bill said," Fehr said in a statement. "Hopefully we can continue the dialogue, expand the (negotiation) group and make steady progress."

The union's negotiating committee, of which Lightning wing B.J. Crombeen is a member, had a conference call Sunday, Canada's TSN network reported. The committee and the union executive board have another call today, the network said.

The lockout reached its 50th day Sunday. Games have been canceled through Nov. 30.

The core issue in reaching a collective bargaining agreement is how to divide league revenue. Both sides agree the split will be 50-50. But the league wants it implemented immediately. The players, who last season received 57 percent, prefer it to be phased in so existing contracts can be honored in full. They have agreed to an immediate drop to 50 percent if the contracts are fully paid.

On Oct. 16 the league proposed an immediate 50-50 split and a "make whole" proposition that would allow players to be reimbursed over the length of their contracts the salary cut they would take from an immediate drop. That money ultimately would be charged to the players' share, meaning the players would be paying back themselves.

The league last week said during the phone conversations the owners are now willing to absorb that reimbursement.

Renewed talks bring optimism in NHL labor bargaining 11/04/12 [Last modified: Monday, November 5, 2012 5:25pm]

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