12/6/2012 12:04:01 Am
A tight-lipped Gary Bettman briefly addressed the media on Wednesday afternoon as the league and the NHL Players' Association prepared for another bargaining session to come up with a collective bargaining agreement and save the 2012-13 season.
"We are pleased with the process that is ongoing and out of respect for the process, I'm not going to take any questions," the NHL commissioner told reporters.
Bettman's statement came after the union submitted another proposal to the NHL to evaluate while the League countered on key issues. The two sides spent hours at the bargaining table with talks ending shortly before 1am local time.
NHL owners are believed to be seeking a ten-year collective bargaining agreement that includes an out-clause after six year. The idea of a 10-year deal is to ease the initial burden for clubs on the transition payment. The NHLPA continues to favour a shorter contract.
According to sources, the owners discussed a possible season that would span 50-plus games. There had been talk of a 60-game schedule in the event of a labour settlement, but the feeling among the group was that it would be too ambitious at this stage.
A grouping of six NHL owners and 18 players met through the afternoon and into the night on Tuesday without either Bettman or union chief Donald Fehr in attendance. "I appreciate the efforts of the players, in particular we had 18 players in there (Tuesday) and six of our owners," NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said after the nearly eight-hour meeting on Tuesday. "I think everybody is working hard. I think everybody wants to get a deal done, so I think that's encouraging."
The same group dynamic is in place for Wednesday's talks.
The players' contingent for Wednesday includes Penguins captain Sidney Crosby, Chicago captain Jonathan Toews and teammate Jamal Mayers, Buffalo goaltender Ryan Miller, Vancouver forward Manny Malhotra, St. Louis forward David Backes, Florida's George Parros, Rangers center Brad Richards, Tampa Bay veteran Martin St. Louis and teammate B.J. Crombeen, Los Angeles forward Kevin Westgarth, Phoenix captain Shane Doan, Pittsburgh's Craig Adams, Winnipeg defenseman Ron Hainsey, Edmonton's Shawn Horcoff, Calgary centre Michael Cammalleri, Anaheim forward Daniel Winnik along with Chris Campoli and Mathieu Darche.
Both sides have also cleared their schedules for the rest of the week, requesting an adjournment to a hearing with the Quebec Labour Board in Montreal concerning the legality of locking out players from the Canadiens. That meeting, originally scheduled for Thursday and Friday, now will be pushed back.
Daly and NHLPA special counsel Steve Fehr surprised the waiting media when they stood side-by-side after Tuesday's meeting while making their statements to the media.
"I thought it was a constructive day, we had a good dialogue," Fehr said. "In some ways I'd say it might be the best day we've had, which isn't to paint too overly optimistic of a picture. There's still a lot of work to do and a lot to be done, but we will be back at it (Wednesday) morning."
The owners were represented by chairman of the NHL's board of governors, Jeremy Jacobs of the Boston Bruins. He was joined by Murray Edwards of the Calgary Flames, as well as Pittsburgh's Ron Burkle, Tampa's Jeff Vinik, Mark Chipman of the new Winnipeg franchise and Larry Tanenbaum of the Maple Leafs.
Both sides met for more than five hours, broke in the evening, then reconvened nearly two hours later until finally resting for good shortly after Midnight et.
Bettman first suggested the idea of a face-to-face meeting between owners and players without some of the usual representatives from either side involved in the collective bargaining sessions.
The two factions met twice last week with the involvement of federal mediators, but the process was unsuccessful as it had been during the 2004-05 lockout.
The current work stoppage, which began Sept. 16, has already forced the cancellation of regular-season games through Dec. 14, as well as the Winter Classic and All-Star Weekend.