Friday, August 28, 2015

Without Gary Bettman and Donald Fehr, progress at NHL meeting

After a marathon day of negotiating, a representative from the NHL and the NHL Players' Association stood side by side and addressed the media.

Without Gary Bettman and Donald Fehr, progress at NHL meeting

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NHL logo. (Mark Humphrey/AP)
NHL logo. (Mark Humphrey/AP)

After a marathon day of negotiating, a representative from the NHL and the NHL Players' Association stood side by side and addressed the media.

It was the first time that has happened in this labor war, an indication that progress was made Tuesday in New York.

Steve Fehr, special counsel for the NHLPA, said it may have been the best negotiating day of the 80-day lockout.

"But I don't want to paint too rosy of a picture," he said, adding that lots of work still needed to be done.

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Fehr was flanked by Bill Daly, the NHL's deputy commissioner.

"I think everyone wants to get a deal done, so that's encouraging," said Daly, who thanked the players for attending.

The sides will meet again Wednesday.

There were different participants at the bargaining table Tuesday _ and they created some cautious optimism in the labor dispute.

One of the new voices at the meeting, Pittsburgh Penguins owner Ron Burkle, reportedly made his presence felt at the first session, which lasted nearly 5½ hours before a dinner break. Burkle’s input drew upbeat reviews from the players, sending more positive vibes than at any point in the work stoppage.  

For the first time in the lockout, a meeting included some players and owners. There were 18 players, six owners, Daly and Fehr.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and NHLPA boss Donald Fehr _ the respective leaders who have thus far been ineffective in the negotiations _ were not present.  It was a frustrated Bettman who suggested the leaders not attend, trying a different approach in hopes it would end the labor war.

Donald Fehr huddled with the players during the dinner break.

At the second session, late Tuesday, Donald Fehr and Bettman were reportedly planning to attend the meeting, but did not.

No Flyers were at the meetings, which included stars such as Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby, Chicago’s Jonathan Toews, Buffalo’s Ryan Miller and Tampa Bay’s Martin St. Louis.

The owners who attended included hard-liners Jeremy Jacobs of Boston and Murray Edwards of Calgary. The other owners who were there: Burkle, Winnipeg’s Mark Chipman, Toronto’s Larry Tanenbaum and Tampa Bay’s Jeff Vinik.

A year ago, the NBA ratified a new collective bargaining agreement on Dec. 8 and started the season on Christmas. Optimists were hopeful the NHL could follow a similar path. Cynics pointed out that the NBA and its union already had a tentative agreement in place last year on Nov. 25.

The last NHL lockout that ended with an in-season agreement was in 1994-95. That season, a settlement was reached on Jan. 11, and a 48-game season was salvaged.

The NHL, which has canceled games though Dec. 14, and the players are battling over numerous issues, including how to divide hockey-related revenue, free agency, arbitration, length of individual contracts, and length of the new CBA.

The NHL Board of Governors meeting will be Wednesday at 11 a.m. in New York, and it will follow the meeting between players and owners. In the BOG meeting, the owners could select a drop-dead date for when the season cannot be saved. They could also cancel more games, though that may not happen because of Tuesday’s progress.

Ed Snider, the Flyers’ chairman and founder, Peter Luukko, president of the Flyers’ parent company, Comcast-Spectacor, and general manager Paul Holmgren are expected to attend the meeting.

* * *

Forward John Gaudreau, the pride of Gloucester Catholic and a 2011 Calgary Flames draftee, was named to preliminary U.S. Junior National team, which also includes defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere, the Flyers’ third-round pick last June.

Contact Sam Carchidi at scarchidi@phillynews.com. Follow on Twitter @BroadStBull.

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