NHL players and owners meet directly, progress slow

Published On December 6, 2012 | By Annie Maroon

NHL owners and players discussed new proposals in New York until about 1 a.m. last night, attempting to work something out before the weekend, at which point the rest of the league’s December games would likely be canceled.

Six owners – including those of the Penguins, Jets, Maple Leafs, Kings and Lightning – talked directly with players at the Westin Times Square Hotel, without representatives like NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr or league commissioner Gary Bettman (although both were present and met with their respective groups throughout the day).

Taking Bettman and Fehr, both polarizing figures, out of the picture could have been an attempt at reshaping the discussion, but so far progress has been slow as usual.

Neither side announced a comprehensive plan, but both discussed several smaller issues throughout the day and night. The league proposed a 10-year contract for the new collective bargaining agreement to create a longer period of stability.

The owners also offered to raise the amount of the “Make Whole” provision, which would help cover the contracts of the players, who haven’t been getting paid during the lockout. They raised the amount to $300 million from $211 million in their last offer.

One sticking point for the players remained the same: the league continued to insist on a five-year limit on all contracts, except in cases where a team signed its own free agent and could then give out a contract up to seven years.

The meetings were said to be less tense than those in the past, owing to the presence of “moderate” owners like the Penguins’ Ron Burkle (and his franchise player Sidney Crosby), but that didn’t necessarily mean they were more productive. The two groups will resume talks today at the hotel.

Games through December 14 have already been canceled, and the potential for even a shortened season is at stake if the players and owners can’t reach a compromise this month.

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