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Tuesday, November 6, 2012
NHL, NHLPA meet in private

By Katie Strang
ESPNNewYork.com

NEW YORK -- NHLPA Executive Director Donald Fehr didn't offer any predictions for the latest round of negotiations but said he hopes Tuesday's meeting between the league and union yields more than previous sessions.

The two sides are set to meet at an undisclosed location in Manhattan at 3 p.m. ET. The union agreed to honor the league's request to keep the meeting private in an effort to limit interference and media exposure.

"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, so it's very good to be getting back to the table," Fehr said. "And 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."

Fehr said he hopes the two sides continue to meet as long as it takes to broker a new deal. The lockout has now stretched into its seventh week -- Tuesday marked the 52nd day -- and has resulted in the cancellation of all regular-season games through Nov. 30, as well as the annual Winter Classic.

"We're hopeful that we'll start bargaining and we'll continue bargaining until we find a way to make a deal," Fehr said.

The last substantive discussion between the two sides was over the weekend, when NHLPA special counsel Steve Fehr and NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly met one-on-one at a secret, neutral site on Saturday.

No formal proposals were traded but the two groups' No. 2 men discussed a variety of issues in a marathon meeting that both Fehr and Daly characterized as productive.

An integral part of the discussion between the two parties was the league's willingness to bend on their "make-whole" provision. Although the league originally intended to honor existing player contracts by using a deferred payment program that would ultimately require players to shoulder the economic burden down the road, they are now willing to modify their stance, a source told ESPN.com's Pierre LeBrun this past weekend.

An agreement on that element of the deal would be significant, but would not necessarily be the end-all to forging a new collective bargaining agreement.

"It doesn't end the matter," said Fehr, who said he will reserve judgment until he is formally presented with the league's stance on the issue. "There are still other things that are important, but it certainly would matter in and of itself."

Although the location for Tuesday's meeting remains unknown, the bargaining session will include a larger group this time. Commissioner Gary Bettman and Donald Fehr will attend, as will both sides' legal teams. Several players are expected to join the meeting as well.

According to the union's website, those players planning on attending are: Craig Adams, David Backes, Martin Biron, Chris Campoli, Sidney Crosby, Mathieu Darche, Ron Hainsey, Johan Hedberg, Milan Lucic, Manny Malhotra, Steve Montador, Shawn Thornton and Kevin Westgarth.

"The issues the players are concerned about obviously remain the same, don't bear a lot of repetition, but the players haven't seen any need to go backwards given the history of the last negotiations and given the level of revenue increase since then. And player contracting rights are very important to them, obviously," Fehr said. "So that's basically where we sit."