It appears the NHL and its players’ association may have found a negotiating tactic that actually works.
With union counsel Steve Fehr calling it the best day they’ve had so far, six owners and 18 players, including Buffalo Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller, met twice Tuesday in New York. The sides made progress toward a long-awaited collective bargaining agreement, but they cautioned there’s a lot of work to be done before the lockout can end.
The negotiators, who wrapped up at midnight, will gather again this morning prior to an NHL board of governors meeting.
“I think everybody wants to get a deal done, so I think that’s encouraging,” NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly told reporters during a joint news conference with Fehr.
Tuesday’s meetings were different in that the leaders of the parties, Commissioner Gary Bettman and NHLPA Executive Director Donald Fehr, were on the sidelines while new faces participated.
Four owners - Pittsburgh’s Ronald Burkle, Winnipeg’s Mark Chipman, Toronto’s Larry Tanenbaum and Tampa Bay’s Jeffery Vinik - sat down for the first time, joining regular league negotiators Jeremy Jacobs of Boston and Murray Edwards of Calgary.
The union elected to use all 18 players who traveled to New York after initially being expected to counter with six. Among those sitting alongside Miller were Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby, Phoenix’s Shane Doan, Chicago’s Jonathan Toews, Tampa Bay’s Martin St. Louis and the New York Rangers’ Brad Richards.`
The sides gathered at 2 p.m. and met for 5½ hours before breaking for dinner. They reconvened shortly after 10 p.m. for a two-hour session.
Though details were kept quiet, multiple reports said the Penguins’ Burkle played an integral role during the meetings, which featured full-party discussions and smaller gatherings.
Burkle, whose team is a Stanley Cup contender with Crosby as its captain, would likely push for a season to be played.
It would seem Vinik, who oversees an aging Tampa squad featuring St. Louis, and Chipman, whose team has played just one season in Winnipeg, also would prefer seeing the puck drop.
Jacobs, the Buffalo native who owns Delaware North Cos., has repeatedly been portrayed as a hard-liner who has pushed for a knockout of the players’ association.
Jacobs is also the chairman of the board of governors, which will meet at 11 this morning. The Sabres are expected to take three spots at the table. Owner Terry Pegula, President Ted Black and General Manager Darcy Regier will attend.
Bettman is scheduled to hold a 1 p.m. news conference following the board meeting.
The lockout has been in effect since Sept. 16 and has wiped out all games through Dec. 14. More cancellations are expected this week if the sides fail to complete a CBA.
Meanwhile, a Canadian Press report said businesses near NHL arenas in Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal have taken as much as a 35 percent hit due to the lockout.