TORONTO – The NHL’s collective bargaining talks resumed unexpectedly and the sides are committed to staying in touch through the weekend.
An unannounced session with the primary negotiators was held at union headquarters in Toronto on Friday, with commissioner Gary Bettman and deputy commissioner Bill Daly dropping in on NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr and special counsel Steve Fehr.
The group met in both the morning and afternoon in an effort “to move this process forward,” according to a union spokesman, and they are expected to keep in touch by phone over the coming days. Both sides seemed optimistic that another negotiating session would be scheduled for next week.
The NHL lockout is heading into its fourth week and has already forced the league to scratch 82 regular-season games off the schedule between Oct. 11 and Oct. 24.
In announcing those cancellations on Thursday, the league offered a conciliatory note to fans frustrated by the sport’s fourth work stoppage in 20 years.
“The game deserves better, the fans deserve better and the people who derive income from their connection to the NHL deserve better,” Daly said. “We remain committed to doing everything in our power to forge an agreement that is fair to the players, fair to the teams and good for our fans. …
“We are committed to getting this done.”
The sides haven’t been able to find agreement on how best to split up the US$3.3 billion the NHL took in revenues last season. The league is looking for an immediate rollback on salaries while the players are pushing to have all current contracts honoured.
Negotiations have been ongoing since the end of June but progress has been difficult to find.
The lockout came into effect at midnight on Sept. 15 and has already cost the league almost $100 million in lost revenue, according to Daly.
The NHL has been pushing the union to table another offer to help break the standoff in negotiations. Donald Fehr remains open to the possibility, telling The Canadian Press earlier this week that the union is constantly reviewing its options.
“(The proposal) has to be one that is fair to the players and is consistent with what the history is and what the economics are in the industry,” he said. “So far, it’s been difficult to do this without the response being: ‘You haven’t moved far enough fast enough.”‘