The owners and players have taken part in talks without Donald Fehr or Gary Bettman for the first time since negotiations began.
The Tuesday meetings went late into the night, lasting roughly eight hours, and when they broke, both sides were looking forward to further talks today. TSN reports that 18 players took part yesterday along with six NHL owners. Following last night’s session, NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly commended the players for their determination to get a deal done.
“I appreciate the efforts of the players, in particular we had 18 players in there (Tuesday) and six of our owners,” said Daly. “I think everybody is working hard. I think everybody wants to get a deal done, so I think that’s encouraging.”
Appearing alongside Daly before the press was NHLPA Special Counsel Steve Fehr, who said this was the best day of the lockout so far.
“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.”
Most hockey fans will probably roll their eyes upon hearing ‘optimism’ or ‘progress’ in reference to the lockout. But the fact of the matter is, the two polarizing figures in the stalemate were removed from discussion for the first time. Also, these meetings were the longest string of talks since the negotiations began. Nearly eight hours of discussion has to be a good sign, right?
TSN’s Bob McKenzie said the length of the meeting does not necessarily mean progress.
“The first law of covering the CBA is not being seduced by the length of the meetings,” said McKenzie on Insider Trading last night. “Whether they can meet for ten minutes or ten hours, they can hit a road block and come out all angry at each other. But there’s no way you sit in a meeting for over five hours and not get past the basics.”
McKenzie says the removal of Bettman and Fehr from negotiations could have sparked a new sense of direction in the room. But he also said it could just very well be the desperation factor.. that time is running out and only now are both sides truly willing to concede to the other.
ESPN’s Insider Pierre LeBrun mentioned that this approach was really “the final attempt.” The two sides have exhausted every other avenue of negotiating. He said the the urgency is evident, especially on the side of the NHL due to the legitimate threat of NHLPA decertification.
The players present yesterday were reported to be: Penguins captain Sidney Crosby, Chicago captain Jonathan Toews and teammate Jamal Mayers, Buffalo goaltender Ryan Miller, Vancouver forward Manny Malhotra, St. Louis forwards Andy McDonald and 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 center Michael Cammalleri and Mathieu Darche.
TSN’s Darren Dreger also notes that if progress isn’t evident by the end of this week, we can expect the league to cancel more regular season games.
Progress is apparent, but until its fruition becomes evident, I warn against becoming too optimistic. Instead, look forward to the World Junior Hockey Championships in a few weeks. At least we know that’s a definite go.