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NHL and players’ association meet briefly Thursday

NEW YORK — The NHL’s collective bargaining talks have taken on another new look amid growing concerns that negotiations are heading off track.

The sides returned to the table for about an hour Thursday night with a much smaller group than the one that met the previous two days. The session was also considerably shorter and deputy commissioner Bill Daly declined comment as he walked out of a midtown Manhattan hotel.

Daly and general counsel Bob Batterman represented the league while NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr and special counsel Steve Fehr sat in for the union along with a group of players.

None of the six league owners who were part of marathon sessions Tuesday and Wednesday took part.

Four members of that group — Pittsburgh’s Ron Burkle, Tampa’s Jeff Vinik, Toronto’s Larry Tanenbaum and Winnipeg’s Mark Chipman — were considered moderates who travelled to New York in an effort to broker a deal.

However, two days of negotiations with a group of players failed to produce a new agreement despite the fact the sides appeared to move closer together after exchanging proposals on Wednesday.

Details began trickling out about the offers early Thursday morning, including the league’s willingness to up the amount of deferred transition money paid to the players to US$300 million — which appeared to be the golden number in recent weeks as it sat directly between what had most recently been tabled by the NHL ($211 million) and NHLPA ($393 million).

However, sources indicated the league’s offer of $300 million was connected to the acceptance of other issues on the table. The sides must also agree on player contract rights pertaining to free agency, arbitration and the maximum length of contracts — something the NHL is pushing for to eliminate long-term, back-diving deals.

Another issue that surfaced was the league’s desire to see a 10-year term, with the option to terminate after eight years, on the collective bargaining agreement. The NHLPA continues to favour a shorter contract.

Earlier on Thursday, the NHL Players’ Association asked the NHL to consider having U.S. federal mediators rejoin the process. The sides spent two unsuccessful days with mediators last week.

The lockout has resulted in the cancellation of 422 regular-season games through Dec. 14. More games are expected to be wiped away soon.

 
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