Printed on: January 02, 2013
Meetings back on in hockey labor fight
By Ira Podell
AP Sports Writer
NEW YORK -- The proposals are flying back and forth between the NHL and the players' association. Whether significant prog-ress is being made in the process still isn't all that clear.
The league made a counteroffer on Tuesday night in response to one it received from the players on Monday and now the NHL is waiting for another answer.
A full day of smaller group meetings wrapped up with a full bargaining session that lasted about 30 minutes Tuesday night. The union took the league's latest offer back to its headquarters to begin reviewing it.
"They did make a comprehensive response to what we gave them yesterday," executive director Donald Fehr said. "Now what we have to do is go through the document, try to make some sense out of it, compare it and see what the appropriate thing is to do next."
Fehr said he will get back in touch with the NHL on Wednesday morning, and added he anticipates the sides will get back together during the day.
"I am reasonably certain of it," Fehr said.
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman declined to provide details of the league's latest offer, but said it addressed specific areas the union requested.
"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," he said. "That's part of the process."
But it's a process that has limited time to be completed. Bettman said Monday the NHL has told the union a deal needs to be in place by Jan. 11 so a 48-game season can begin eight days later.
It is unclear how many issues still need to be resolved and how far apart the sides are in key areas.
"Nobody is counting," Bettman said. "We're not trying to keep score, we're trying to get an agreement."
Both sides agreed that it is a positive sign they are getting into a rhythm of talking and meeting and exchanging ideas on a regular basis.
The only way to bridge the gaps to a deal that would save the season is to keep working at it together.
"The fact that we're involved in a continuous process is something that I am glad to see, but we're clearly not done yet," Bettman said. "It's up to the players' association to come back to us now in response to what they have been given this evening."
Small groups from each side met and conferred by conference calls all afternoon about provisions of a potential collective bargaining agreement. A full meeting of the negotiating teams didn't begin until 9 p.m. and wrapped up relatively quickly after the NHL presented its counterproposal.
The afternoon sessions were more for informational purposes.
"Those were more technical," Bettman said. "There were a variety of issues where there weren't what I would call negotiations. It was understanding what each side was looking for, explaining what the issues were that were being discussed just to make sure there was a common understanding."
There is a little less than two weeks left to reach an agreement and hold one week of training camp before starting the season. All games through Jan. 14 have been canceled.