While nearly everyone in the NHL was quiet, including Commissioner Gary Bettman, a select group of players and owners continued to talk and negotiate Wednesday. They even formally exchanged ideas for a new collective bargaining agreement.
It’s unclear how much progress they made. Their talks in New York went late into the night for the second straight day.
“We are pleased with the process that is ongoing,” Bettman said during an afternoon news conference that lasted 24 seconds. “Out of respect for that process I don’t have anything else to say.”
Six owners and 19 players spoke to each other and internally from afternoon until night, breaking for dinner as speculation swirled about their conferences.
“We’re going to continue to talk up until we get a deal,” Toronto owner Larry Tanenbaum, one of the half-dozen league representatives, told reporters following a midday board of governors meeting. “All I can say is as long as we’re talking we’re hopeful.”
The negotiating group, which included Buffalo Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller, met for 7½ hours Tuesday but did not formally make offers. That reportedly changed Wednesday.
The NHL Players’ Association made a proposal in the afternoon, according to multiple reports. The league countered early in the evening, according to ESPN.com.
At about 8:45 p.m., following their two-hour dinner break, the owners returned to the meeting room. They stayed for less than 15 minutes and departed for another internal discussion, according to reports. They returned 15 minutes later.
While they talked again, reporters noticed an NHL lectern being set up for a news conference.
The suspense as to why added to the intensity of the day. A new CBA needs to be reached by Friday or more games are expected to be canceled. The schedule has already been wiped out through Dec. 14.
While Miller took part in negotiations, Sabres owner Terry Pegula, President Ted Black and General Manager Darcy Regier attended the board of governors meeting. Bettman described the two-hour session as “basically an update.”
“We feel good about the information we got,” Columbus Blue Jackets President John Davidson told reporters.
Black, via email, declined comment. The NHL has threatened substantial fines for team employees who talk about the lockout.
The sides were supposed to appear in front of the Quebec Labour Relations Board today and Friday, but because of the increased talks in New York they agreed to postpone the hearing. The NHLPA, led by members of the Montreal Canadiens, filed suit with the labor board in September to have the lockout declared illegal in the province.