Two sides try smaller negotiation teams

With nothing to lose but the rest of the hockey season, Vancouver Canucks forward Trevor Linden thought his idea
was worth a shot:

Get together a small group of representatives from NHL
management and the players' union and try to find some middle
ground that would jump-start talks toward ending the 125-day

That is, try to do what previous, more formal negotiations couldn't.

Failure to produce even some movement might signal the end of any hopes that the season can be saved. Through Wednesday, 662 of the 1,230 regular-season games have been canceled, as was next month's All-Star Game.

"I don't think [Wednesday] is necessarily the last chance," Bill Daly, the NHL's chief legal officer, told The Associated Press on Tuesday. "I do think we're in a critical period, there is no doubt about it. I think we not only need to make progress but move toward a resolution and come to a resolution very soon in order for there to be hockey to be played this season."

What's more interesting about the meeting is who wasn't be present.

Linden reached out to the league by inviting Hotchkiss,
the chairman of the NHL board of governors, to sit down and talk
without NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and union head Bob Goodenow
in the room.

"I think the dynamic of having Trevor Linden there with Harley
Hotchkiss will be a new dynamic but I don't think it's atypical or
abnormal at all for these types of discussions to be occurring,"
Daly said.

Daly joined Hotchkiss, a Calgary Flames part owner, and
outside counsel Bob Batterman in representing the NHL; Linden,
NHLPA senior director Ted Saskin, and outside counsel John
McCambridge took part for the players.

Linden didn't have a new proposal, and he wasn't looking for
attention. It wasn't until late Tuesday that word filtered out that
the meeting would take place in Chicago.

Saskin said Tuesday the players wouldn't be presenting a new proposal but added that the union is "committed to reaching a fair deal that does not include a salary cap."

Daly has maintained that the owners aren't prepared to make a
new offer, either, since they put forth the last one.

There had been no talks since Dec. 14.