NEW YORK — If the first bargaining session in eight days between the NHL and the players’ association made any headway, neither side tipped its hand.
A large contingent of players got together with league leadership on Monday night and met for under two hours. Not a whole lot was accomplished on the road to a new agreement that could get the hockey season going, but at least there was optimism that the sides would get together again — likely as soon as Tuesday.
“We talked about various things,” union executive director Donald Fehr said on a chilly Manhattan sidewalk outside the NHL office. “No new proposals were made, they were not expected to be made. We had hoped to engage them in a discussion about the player contracting issues that are so important to the players. At least tonight they were unwilling to do that.”
The league contends that it is waiting for the players to present a full proposal on all the major issues — including core economics and player contracting, which deals with the entry-level system, arbitration and free agency. After the request was made, the players’ association asked for a break and the meeting adjourned soon after.
Union representatives, along with 18 players who were in attendance, returned to the players’ association office to have further internal discussions Monday night. The sides agreed to get back in touch on Tuesday morning, and the feeling on both ends was that it likely would lead to another face-to-face meeting.
“It’s certainly a good possibility of it. I would say it’s more likely than not,” Fehr said.
Whether hockey will return soon, or at all this season, is still to be determined. The lockout entered its 65th day on Monday and has already wiped out 327 games. More cancellations could be coming soon, but the NHL hasn’t said when another such announcement might be coming.
“I think every week is important in the process,” deputy commissioner Bill Daly said. “I don’t attach a particular significance to this week over last week or next week. I want to play tomorrow.”
After turning down a suggestion from NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman to take a two-week break from negotiations, the union requested another meeting with the league that was scheduled Saturday.
It was the first bargaining session between the sides since Nov. 11, when a busy week of negotiating wrapped up with a session that lasted just over an hour and didn’t produce any results. All games through Nov. 30 and the New Year’s Day Winter Classic have been called off.