Union wants to restart talks with NHL

Updated: December 21, 2012, 1:32 AM ET
By Pierre LeBrun | ESPN.com

TORONTO -- The head of the NHL Players' Association says his side in hockey's labor dispute is set to resume talks anywhere, anytime, but is waiting for league negotiators to feel the same way.

Speaking to a large throng of media here before an NHLPA charity hockey game at the former Maple Leaf Gardens, NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr was asked why bargaining has not resumed this week.

"Because the owners have not indicated a desire to resume," Fehr said. "We've indicated any number of times that we're willing to resume whenever they are without preconditions.''

NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly, reached by ESPN.com via email Wednesday evening, said the league is willing to resume talks under the right conditions.

"We haven't said we won't meet, but we certainly would want to know what the agenda is and how they intend to proceed,'' Daly said.

Daly created a buzz earlier Wednesday when, during a Hockey Night In Canada radio interview, he was asked for a simple yes or no answer to the question of whether he thought there would be a season. He responded, "Yes.''

"That's good news," Fehr said when told of Daly's affirmative answer. "I'm glad to hear that. I certainly hope he's right. That's the players' goal; that's what we want to try and do.

"Hopefully, we'll get back together and negotiate out the remaining issues as soon as possible."

The two sides haven't met officially since last Thursday, when the presence of mediators in New Jersey didn't produce any movement or progress.

On Tuesday, NHLPA bargaining committee member Ron Hainsey told ESPN.com's Scott Burnside that he believed it might be a good idea for the two sides to bring back the group dynamic from two weeks ago, when Penguins owner Ron Burkle led a fresh approach in talks from the NHL side, leading to apparent progress in a group session with players.

Fehr seemed open to that idea, as well, mentioning Hainsey's comment in his scrum Wednesday evening.

Anything to get talks back under way, Fehr said.

"We have to find a way to have discussions, because it's very hard to come to an agreement if you're not talking to one another," Fehr said. "It's very hard to come to an agreement if you set preconditions to the negotiations, too.''

Asked about the fans' growing impatience with the ongoing lockout, Fehr said he understood their pain.

"Anytime you have a dispute like this ... anytime you are preventing the fans from watching the sport, which provides the business we're all involved in -- it's not a good thing," Fehr said. "And it needs to be ended as soon as possible. We certainly hope we can do that. We certainly want to tell the fans we're doing everything we can to do that.''

Fehr declined to shed any more details on the possibility of the NHLPA filing a disclaimer of interest that essentially would dissolve the union.

"That's an internal matter which the players will discuss,'' Fehr said.

ALSO SEE