NHL CBA talks resume, but stall
NHL and NHLPA officials met informally at the league's New York office on Friday
NHLPA leader Donald Fehr says he's trying to find a bridge between the two sides
The NHLPA is appealing to labor laws in Canada to declare a lockout illegal
NEW YORK (AP) -- After the first face-to-face meeting in a week between the NHL and the players' association, the sides spent a relatively quiet weekend apart as the clock ticks down toward another potential lockout.
With less than a week remaining before the collective bargaining agreement between the league and the players runs out, no new negotiations took place after an informal return to the table Friday.
There was hope that negotiations would resume Saturday or Sunday, but the communication between the sides was limited to phone and email instead.
NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr, and his top assistant and brother, Steve Fehr, sat down with NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and deputy commissioner Bill Daly on Friday for a status check after a week of little to no communication. The sides last held formal discussions on the previous Friday, but those ended with Donald Fehr telling reporters the talks were in a "recess."
The current CBA expires Saturday, and Bettman has said the league will lock out the players if a deal isn't reached by then. The preseason schedule is set to begin on Sept. 19, and the regular season is supposed to start on Oct. 11.
The expiring deal has been in place since 2005 following the previous lockout that forced the cancelation of the entire 2004-05 season and playoffs.
Meanwhile, Montreal Canadiens players have hired Montreal-based lawyer Michael Cohen, who sent a cease and desist letter to the team's owners and the NHL on Friday. They claim it would be unlawful for the players to be locked out because the NHLPA isn't certified by the Quebec Labor Board. Under Quebec law, a union must have that certification for an employer to enact a lockout.
The two sides last held formal discussions last Friday, but those ended with Donald Fehr telling reporters the talks were in a "recess."
Players have often flanked the Fehrs for support in the process, and Friday was no different. Winnipeg defenseman Ron Hainsey, Minnesota forward Zenon Konopka and Buffalo defenseman Robyn Regher were on hand in New York.
"(We're) trying to find a way to bridge the gap," Donald Fehr said. "That's always the intent."
Negotiations, throughout the summer, have taken breaks during weekends.
Bettman confirmed the meeting lasted two hours on Friday, and as he has been through the most of the process, he remains optimistic.
"We'd like to make a deal," he said, refusing to characterize the mood of the morning session. "There is an ebb and flow to negotiations.
"It's always good to have dialogue."
Meanwhile, teams around the league are preparing for a stoppage. On Friday, in a conference call to announce a new deal for forward Brad Marchand, Boston general manager Peter Chiarelli said the Bruins cancelled an upcoming rookie camp and tournament. The Detroit Red Wings did the same thing last month.
When talks broke off last week, the NHLPA responded to an offer from the NHL with changes to an earlier proposal. The union's most recent offer came three days after the NHL made its first counterproposal last Tuesday. After asking the players to cut their share of hockey revenue from 57 to 43 percent, the NHL upped its proposal to have the players get a 46 percent share over a six-year deal.
The union revised its initial offer by proposing to restructure the fourth and final year of its initial offer. The NHLPA was willing to give back between $465 million and $800 million in revenue over the first three years of the deal as long as the system switched back to the existing agreement in the fourth year.
Donald Fehr countered by proposing "several concepts" in which the players would get less than 57 percent of revenues in the fourth and final year. The NHLPA, however, is still asking NHL owners to establish a revenue sharing program to help struggling teams.
Bettman called revenue sharing "a distraction" and questioned whether the union made an actual counterproposal or a mere response to the league's presentation.
The union has questioned the NHL as to why it is attempting to have players bear much of the burden of cost savings, especially after the league reported record revenues topping $3.3 billion last season.
Aside from asking the players to take an across-the-board cut in their share of revenues, the NHL is also seeking to place severe limits on free agency while also abolishing players' rights to salary arbitration.
The NHL has had three labor disputes since April 1, 1992, when players held a 10-day strike that forced 30 games to be rescheduled. The most recent two were lockouts.
The regular season is scheduled to begin on Oct. 11.
Copyright 2012 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.