TORONTO – A day after tabling the remaining elements of its opening contract offer, it was the NHL’s turn to listen.
The NHL Players’ Association made a number of presentations to owners Thursday, including ones addressing pensions, training camp and ice conditions.
Mathieu Schneider, special assistant to NHLPA executive director Don Fehr, says the two sides were involved in collective discussion and also broke into smaller groups.
“Today was another good day,” said the former NHL defenceman. “I think we had a lot of good, open discussion and it was certainly one of the days where we had a lot of player involvement and to me that’s the most important thing.”
Schneider adds that benefits have not been updated since the 1990s, while training camp issues include the schedule, player testing and the amount of pre-season games in which veterans would be expected to participate.
“There are a lot of these issues (where) we have the same common goal,” Schneider said. “It’s (about) coming to agreement and how we get to that goal and that’s a lot of what happened today.”
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman says both sides want the same thing on a number of the issues discussed Thursday.
“On things relative to the game such as ice conditions, we all want the best ice possible,” Bettman said. “These were really more discussion points than anything else at this stage.”
Schneider says players are taking a keen interest in a number of issues and adds that union members are more involved in the process than in the last round of labour negotiations, which led to the cancellation of the 2004-05 season.
“We’ve had guys that are very interested in the retirement benefits. We’ve had guys that are real interested in supplemental discipline … (and) the core economics of the game,” Schneider said. “So I wouldn’t say that one thing is specific to all players. We have a wide range of players and a wide range of interests.”
The owners presented the remaining components to their opening proposal on Wednesday, an expansion on the one the league delivered July 13, which included a decreased share of hockey-related revenue, term limits on contracts and a 22 per cent salary rollback.
The NHL and the NHLPA are scheduled to resume negotiations on Monday in New York, the sixth straight week the two sides will meet.
The players say they are waiting for specific financial information from the owners before submitting a counter-proposal.
The current collective bargaining agreement is set to expire Sept. 15. Although both sides could continue talking past that date, Bettman has made it clear the NHL would prefer to have a new agreement in place by then.