NHL makes counteroffer

Updated: January 3, 2013, 10:33 PM ET
By Katie Strang | ESPNNewYork.com

NEW YORK -- The new year has not yet produced a new deal, but the NHL and NHLPA continued to make progress Tuesday.

After working late into the night Monday and all day Tuesday, the league provided the union with what NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr called a "comprehensive response" late Tuesday evening.

Fehr said the union will take the rest of Tuesday night to review the offer and that he's "reasonably certain" the two sides will reconvene Wednesday.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said he was "glad to see" the ongoing exchange between the two sides; the NHLPA have traded three totals in the past five days.

"It's a process that's ongoing and I'm thankful for that."

Bettman was measured in his comments but he confirmed the NHL made a detailed "response" to the NHLPA's counteroffer. He said the NHLPA will get back to the league Wednesday.

Also, Bettman said the league agreed to the NHLPA's requests on certain items in the counteroffer but held firm on others.

"In our response, there were certain things that the players' association asked for that we agreed to, there were some things that we moved in their direction and there were other things that we said no," said Bettman. "But that's part of the process."

The meeting, which began at approximately 9 p.m. ET, lasted about thirty minutes but staff members from both sides met earlier in the day for small group meetings.

Among the topics discussed were pensions and revenue-sharing. According to a source, the two sides are very close on revenue-sharing but there is less concert on pensions. Although it was previously believed to be an area where the two were close to an agreement, there were some hiccups on that front recently, the source said.

Bettman In our response, there were certain things that the players' association asked for that we agreed to, there were some things that we moved in their direction and there were other things that we said no. But that's part of the process.

-- NHL commissioner Gary Bettman

How many issues remain if the two sides are to bridge the gap and hammer out the framework for a new collective bargaining agreement?

"Nobody's counting like that," Bettman said. "We're not trying to keep score, we're trying to get an agreement done."

Asked about the state of negotiations, Fehr declined to reveal much:

"It's better to be meeting than not, but I'm not saying anything else more about it."

Wednesday should provide a good gauge on where negotiations stand, however.

In addition to the union's expected response to the league's recent offer, the NHLPA must also decide on whether to file a disclaimer of interest. The executive board, authorized the right to make the call after a membership-wide vote in late December, must make a decision on whether to dissolve the union by midnight on Wednesday.

Should the NHLPA exercise that option, the dynamics of negotiations could change significantly. The union would no longer be able to collectively bargain as currently comprised. It would, however, provide players the right to file antitrust lawsuits against the NHL in court.

If the NHLPA opts not to go down that road, that would suggest the union believes the two sides are on the right track to reaching a deal.

When asked about the impact of that looming deadline, Bettman said it was not something the league was "focused" on.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

Katie Strang covers the NHL for ESPN.com. She is a graduate of Michigan State University and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.
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