Negotiations between the owners and the locked-out players association ended after nearly six hours Wednesday night in New York. Just as they did a night earlier, the sides agreed to get right back to the bargaining table.
Representatives were scheduled to resume talks today, marking the third straight day the sides would meet face to face. They met for a total of about 13 hours over Tuesday and Wednesday at an undisclosed location. The league said in a statement after talks ended Wednesday it wouldn't comment on substance. The union said in a statement only that key issues were discussed.
Cautious optimism continued to come from the meetings as tension seems to be rising from all corners of the sport. Pockets of owners and players are believed to be exerting pressure on their leadership to get a deal, the Canadian Press reported, and Molson Coors CEO Peter Swinburn, whose company is a major NHL sponsor, said Wednesday the brewer would seek compensation from the league when the lockout, in its 54th day today, ends. The financial impact is difficult to tabulate, he said, but the company's most important cold-weather driver of sales has disappeared.
The sides Wednesday discussed revenue sharing among teams and the "make-whole" provision, which involves full payment of current player contracts. Those hot-button topics were scheduled to be on today's agenda, too.
Honoring current contracts is one of the most important issues for the players. "You sign a deal, the honorable thing to do is keep your word," Lightning captain Vinny Lecavalier said after he and six teammates skated at the Ice Sports Forum in Brandon. "That was something that was a huge discussion (among the players) and with everybody."
The league's proposal that cuts the players' share of revenue from last season's 57 percent to 50 percent also reportedly would immediately reduce player salaries by 12 percent. The league originally proposed a "make whole" program in which players would be reimbursed over the term of a new labor deal for immediate salary rollbacks. Players objected because the reimbursement would come out of their revenue share; in other words, players would be paying themselves. The league last week indicated it would absorb part of or all the reimbursement, reports said.
That's only fair, Lightning defenseman Marc-Andre Bergeron said: "When you sign a contract, it's a mutual decision. They didn't have a gun to their head when they gave us what we have."
Times staff writer Damian Cristodero contributed to this report.