The NHL Players' Association met face to face with league owners Tuesday night in another attempt to solve labor disputes between the two sides. The latest meetings seemed to generate some possible movement, as representatives from both sides appeared carefully optimistic afterward.
A different approach was taken in Tuesday's meetings after the players and owners agreed to convene without their respective leaders. Commissioner Gary Bettman, who works for the NHL owners, and NHLPA Executive Director Donald Fehr were not in attendance. The meetings included six owners and 18 players, and was spread out over 8 hours and two separate sessions at a New York hotel.
Special counsel to the NHLPA, Steve Fehr, and NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly didn't sound overly hopeful, but did give reason to believe that some sort of progress is being made, reports Helene Elliott of the Los Angeles Times.
Steve Fehr gave a slightly positive account of the meetings, a rarity in these NHL labor negotiations.
"It may have been the best day we've had so far," said Steve Fehr. "I don't want to paint too rosy of a picture, however."
Specific details of the discussions were not released, but for the first time in a long while someone directly involved in the talks seemed slightly optimistic.
Daly has been critical of the players during the lockout, but didn't have any negative words for them on Tuesday, which may imply that the sides are moving forward toward an agreement.
"I think everybody wants to get a deal done, so I think that's encouraging," Daly said. "We look forward to making more progress" on Wednesday.
Neither side has reported much progress since the lockout began 81 days ago, so these statements may offer a morsel of hope to hockey fans who fear the termination of an entire season.
The idea of both sides meeting without their respective leaders was suggested last week by Bettman in hopes that a face to face meeting would lead to a more open exchange between the owners and players. The bigger issues between the two sides remain the distribution of hockey-related revenue, and the owners' proposal of limiting contracts to just five years.
The NHL has already canceled all games through Dec. 14, and the New Year's Day Winter Classic and All-Star game have also been taken off the schedule. The two sides are expected to continue talks Wednesday.
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