NEW YORK -- The NHL and NHL Players' Association ended this weekend's labor negotiations Sunday afternoon with no firm plans to meet again after three straight days of talks.
Although it had been expected talks could carry over to Monday, the league indicated it would like time to meet internally before returning to the negotiating table.
"It's not like we're not breaking off negotiations," NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said. "We need a little more time to do some work. They have some more work to do, too."
It is possible the two sides will resume discussions later this week, possibly Tuesday, according to NHLPA special counsel Steve Fehr.
"We offered to meet and, (Daly) can speak for himself, but they indicated they thought they had some homework they needed to do and things to discuss so it would be more productive to meet internally than meet tomorrow," Fehr said.
None of the core economic issues was discussed Sunday. Instead the two sides focused on health and safety, operational and legal issues. Fehr said the topic of hockey-related revenue, which dominated Saturday's meeting, did not come up.
Unlike the previous two days, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and NHLPA executive Donald Fehr did not speak. The two had a private meeting both Friday and Saturday.
Why were the main two players absent from the negotiating table Sunday?
"I think that may show you or demonstrate, more than anything else, the nature of the issues we're talking about," Daly said. "We're really talking about kind of micro-issues that we deal with on a day-to-day basis that don't necessarily rise to the commissioner's level or the executive director's level.
"They will be at the table when we're talking about the issues that are really going to get this deal done or not."
Daly expressed frustration the previous two days with what he felt was the union's unwillingness to discuss the core economic issues that divide the two sides. On Sunday, he reiterated the league's expectation that the union should make a proposal on those issues.
"The issues we talked about (Saturday) we need to address again, and the ball sits in their court with respect to coming to us with a response, so I'm sure they've been working on that as well," Daly said.
The union maintains it is open to discuss such items, and Fehr said the two sides likely will discuss hockey-related revenue in some capacity whenever the next meeting takes place.
"I certainly hope there will be a meeting soon," he said. "As I said yesterday, we're always willing to meet, no conditions upon our willingness to meet."
Sunday marked the two-week point of the lockout, which went into effect Sept. 16. The NHL was already forced to cancel the entire preseason schedule and, with opening weekend slated to begin in less than two weeks, the specter of canceling regular-season contests appears to be a virtual certainty at this point.
"As the calendar takes along and we get into October, we're obviously going to have to start making those decisions," Daly said.