NHL, union resume talks

Updated: October 11, 2012, 4:17 PM ET
By Katie Strang | ESPNNewYork.com

After five hours of talks in two sessions Wednesday, NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said the league has received indication that the NHL Players' Association is putting together a proposal, and the NHL is urging the union to make it.

Daly said a "variety of sources" both privately and publicly tipped off the league that the union was working toward putting forth a new offer. The two sides have not swapped proposals in more than three weeks.

"We understand you're working on a proposal. Make it to us," Daly said of the league's message to the union during Wednesday's negotiations. "Let's not stand on formalities. If you have a proposal, make it."

The NHL and the players' association resumed talks Thursday morning when union representatives arrived at league headquarters in New York.

Although it has been a week since the NHL called off the first two weeks of the regular season, that sting will be felt full force Thursday when what should have been opening day passes without a puck hitting NHL ice. If talks go well Thursday, or if the scheduled work can't be completed, there could be another day of discussions Friday.

The league has been imploring the union for weeks to submit something new, and hopes the possibility might jump-start a negotiation process that has become stagnant.

The union also is encouraging the league to make moves of its own, multiple sources told ESPNNewYork.com. Even if the league's next proposal doesn't include significant movement on economic issues, it is believed the union would like to see some concessions made in other areas, such as the contracting issues.

Despite a small, private session between Daly, commissioner Gary Bettman and the union's top two officials, Donald and Steve Fehr, prior to Wednesday afternoon's larger group session, Daly said little progress was made.

"Overall, today, we didn't really move the ball forward that much," he said.

Daly said the top four did not discuss the core economic issues that continue to divide the two sides, although Steve Fehr, who is the union counsel, said the meeting did touch on the key financial concepts. Steve Fehr did not go into detail about what exactly was covered, although no substantive numbers have been exchanged since the days leading up to the lockout.

In the larger group session that lasted more than four hours, the two sides covered a range of health and safety issues, as well as miscellaneous legal issues.

During that meeting, a decision was handed down by the Alberta Labour Relations Board rejecting the union's claim that a lockout was illegal under Canadian provincial law.

Fehr said he was "disappointed" with the outcome and found it "odd" that the ALRB chose not to get involved on the decision.

"We think that's unfortunate. We think they should've gotten involved," Fehr said. "Obviously, it's a win for the league and they get to continue the lockout they want so badly without any interference from the Alberta labor board."

Daly expressed his frustration that the union made the application at all and said he felt the action impeded the potential progress of labor discussions.

"It was really a distraction to the process. It wasn't good-faith bargaining," Daly said.

Although labor talks have seemed to yield little progress, the rhetoric from both sides seems to be becoming increasingly incendiary.

In a recent interview, Donald Fehr said the union would not rule out going after the salary cap should the lockout endure, a comment that did not sit well with the league.

"None of those comments were a surprise to me," Daly said. "If that's the direction they choose to go in, that's up to them. I don't make decisions for them, obviously. They've suggested they want to get the players on the ice soon. I can pretty much assure you if they make that proposal, it won't get the players back on the ice soon."

More than three weeks into the lockout, the league has canceled the entire preseason schedule and all regular-season games through Oct. 24. When asked Wednesday about the resulting economic effect, Daly said the lost games will cost the league upwards of $240 million to $250 million.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

Katie Strang covers the Rangers, Islanders and Devils for ESPNNewYork.com. She is a graduate of Michigan State University and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.
Follow Katie on Twitter »  Chat archive »