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Lines of communication open in NHL labour fight. Negotiations could resume this week

The Hockey News

The Hockey News

NEW YORK, N.Y. - The NHL and the locked-out players' association are talking again, and a return to the bargaining table could happen soon.

After a few days to cool off following an epic collapse in negotiations, the league and the union have been in touch with each other in an attempt to restart conversations that could save the hockey season.

"Trying to set up something for this week, but nothing finalized yet," NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly wrote Sunday in an email to The Associated Press.

Negotiations broke down Thursday night after three straight days of talks at a New York hotel. Moments after players' association executive director Donald Fehr said he believed the sides were closing in on a deal to end the lockout, he was back at the podium to announce the NHL had rejected the union's latest offer.

Commissioner Gary Bettman followed him and angrily stated that the sides weren't close, and added he didn't know why Fehr thought they were.

The tone has changed a bit since then. Whether it has shifted far enough for the sides to come to an agreement soon remains to be seen.

On Friday, Daly said he was at a loss how to get the bargaining process back on track.

"I have no reason, nor any intention, of reaching out to the union right now," Daly said in an email to the AP. "I have no new ideas. Maybe they do. We are happy to listen."

All games have been cancelled through Friday, and more games will surely be wiped off the schedule soon. Bettman said Thursday that he won't allow a season to be played that contains fewer than 48 games per team—the length of the season that was played after a lockout ended in January 1995.

Fehr repeated on Saturday his feeling that the sides aren't all that far apart.

"My comments from a couple of days ago stand on their own. I think we were very close," Fehr told reporters after addressing a Canadian Auto Workers council meeting.

The lockout has resulted in the cancellation of 422 regular-season games along with the New Year's Day Winter Classic and the All-Star game.

The NHL is in danger of losing its second full season in seven years. The lockout that forced the cancellation of the 2004-05 season marked the first time a North American professional sports league had a full campaign wiped out by a labour dispute. The agreement that was finally reached back then expired this September, leading to a lockout being imposed again on Sept. 16.

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