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Tuesday, December 18, 2012
Updated: December 19, 12:19 PM ET
Ron Hainsey wants more meetings

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NEW YORK -- Winnipeg Jets defenseman Ron Hainsey is getting antsy. Not only is he anxious to get back to the bargaining table with the NHL, he really wants to be on the ice with his teammates.

Just not at all costs and not without the right deal.

As part of the negotiating committee for the players' association, Hainsey has kept busy during the lockout by taking part in the ongoing talks with the NHL. But ongoing is now a relative term, because nothing has been going on between the sides since talks broke down again last week, despite the presence of a federal mediator for two days in New Jersey.

"We've said it a number of times, but it's worth repeating: It's obviously very difficult to make a deal if you're not meeting or negotiating," Hainsey told The Associated Press in a telephone interview Tuesday. "I've yet to see a way we can do it without sitting down across a table from each other."

Two weeks ago, progress was made during several consecutive days of negotiations between players and owners in New York. The sides disagree on how close they might have moved toward a deal, but a major breakdown at the end wrecked any hope for a fast solution.

Six owners joined about 18 players in talks without commissioner Gary Bettman and executive director Donald Fehr in the room until the end of that process. Hainsey, who is in the final season of a five-year deal he signed with the former Atlanta Thrashers, is all for trying that again.

"Both [sides] were very respectful of each other," he said. "They were good meetings, they were productive, we did make progress. We were very appreciative of the way we were treated in the meetings by the owners. ... Maybe it's something that is worth revisiting and worthwhile and could possibly bring us closer to a deal."

Also in favor for trying that again Pat Brisson, agent of superstars Sidney Crosby and Jonathan Toews. Brisson has been working the phones behind the scenes to find solutions and possibly reconvene many of parties involved in those New York negotiations, this time including the leaders of each side.

"We should focus into having one more solid meeting with both Gary and Don in the meetings and perhaps the same owners and players who were there a couple weeks ago. That's when we got closer to the deal," Brisson told ESPN The Magazine's Craig Custance. "Time has passed and we've had time to think and cooler heads have prevailed. It's time to just focus there and get this CBA done. That's exactly where we're at."

NHL sources have told ESPN that the league isn't in favor of reconvening that negotiating group. There was a short phone conversation Tuesday between deputy commissioner Bill Daly and Steve Fehr but currently no plans to meet between the NHL and the NHLPA. It's likely more games will be canceled by the end of the week.

"Nothing scheduled at this point," Hainsey said. "We've always said we're open to sit down and meet any time, and now we're kind of in a situation where no one wants to make the first move. Maybe there is a way of doing it. Communication the past couple of days has been quiet. Maybe there is some way to get it started with something similar to what we had [in New York]."

Fehr declared then that an agreement was in reach, a notion that was quickly knocked down by Bettman after the union declined to accept three non-negotiable points. When the offer wasn't unconditionally accepted, the league turned down the union's proposal and withdrew any offers it had made.

"We've had a few weeks where we worked all week leading up to Thursday and Friday, and it looks like we're gathering momentum, and then had some setbacks," the 31-year-old Hainsey said. "Those things make it a bit more difficult. On both sides you get a feeling that you're making momentum and getting closer, and then you take a step backward. Then things quiet down for a couple of days, and someone has to pick up the phone and re-engage and figure out a forum.

"Personally, I would like to believe that this is not a personal thing or an anger thing. This is the business side of hockey. It's not easy, I've learned that through doing it."

Brisson said Crosby would be willing to return to the negotiating table if asked.

"Totally, with the right format," Brisson said. "You go over point by point where you're at. You don't look to rehash the history. It's 'How do we bridge the gap so we can get back playing?' We look at the bigger picture which is the business of hockey. Canceling the season -- there's no words to describe how devastating that would be."

The lockout reached its 94th day Tuesday, and all games have been canceled through Dec. 30. Bettman has said the league doesn't want a season with fewer than 48 games per team, so play would likely have to get under way by mid-January for that to be possible.

"We would prefer that we were done already," Hainsey said. "There is still time to get something done and salvage a reasonable number of games for a season. We're not up against a hard deadline yet, but we are getting short on time."

After labor talks ended last week, the focus suddenly shifted toward the courts when the NHL filed a federal class action suit Friday, seeking to establish that its lockout is legal. In a separate move, the NHL filed an unfair labor practice charge with the National Labor Relations Board, claiming the players' association has bargained in bad faith.

The NHL says the union's executive board is seeking authorization to give up its collective bargaining rights, a necessary step before players could file an antitrust lawsuit. The union has declined comment, although a vote on the matter will reportedly be completed Thursday.

"Unfortunately, the league filed suit against the players," Hainsey said. "That's never something you want to get to, obviously. It would be much more difficult to see a quick settlement through the courts than bargaining."

Hainsey maintains his optimism that if the sides can find their way back to the table they can figure out the path to a deal. The outlook is now somewhat cloudy because not only have the sides failed to work out an agreement, they appear to have lost some direction on how to get the process going again.

Federal mediation hasn't helped much in two tries over a combined four days. The most success seemed to come in New York, when six owners joined about 18 players in talks without Bettman and Fehr in the room until the end of that process. Hainsey, in the final season of a five-year deal he signed with the former Atlanta Thrashers, is all for trying that again.

"Both [sides] were very respectful of each other," he said. "They were good meetings, they were productive, we did make progress. We were very appreciative of the way we were treated in the meetings by the owners. ... Maybe it's something that is worth revisiting and worthwhile and could possibly bring us closer to a deal."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.