CBA talks resume, will continue during weekend
NEW YORK -- While negotiations toward establishing a new Collective Bargaining Agreement between the National Hockey League and National Hockey League Players' Association resumed Friday, NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly was clearly disappointed that critical economic and system issues were not part of the discussion.
"I wish we spent today on what we consider to be the more meaningful issues, but it is what it is," Daly said following a day of negotiations at the League office. The League and the Union met on two separate occasions -- spanning six hours -- and discussed player-safety issues, drug testing, training and conditioning camps, scheduling, and various other topics related to working conditions.
"[We] can't make them talk about what they don't want to talk about," Daly later added. "In fairness, we do have to cover off these issues if we're going to reach an agreement. So, what we're doing today is important, it's just not the most important things we can be doing."
The sides plan to reconvene Saturday morning for another negotiating session that Daly said would center on hockey-related revenue issues, including circumvention and system arbitration procedures and processes. The parties do not currently anticipate talking about the distribution of hockey-related revenue (HRR), or other system-related issues, according to Daly.
The League and the Union also have Sunday blocked out for negotiating.
The NHL locked out the players Sept. 16, following the expiration of the previous CBA. The League announced Thursday the remainder of the preseason schedule was cancelled. Opening night for the 2012-13 regular season is scheduled for Oct. 11.
"We really need to hear from the Players' Association on those," Daly said when asked why the sides can't get to a discussion on the core economic issues. "Again, we need some kind of sign that they're prepared to compromise their economic position because we haven't had that since Aug. 14. We'll see if we get there."
NHLPA Special Counsel Steve Fehr said the Union is prepared to meet and discuss any and all issues, but added he was not prepared to comment on if they are planning to move off of the current position as it relates to the distribution of HRR.
"There is no plan right now to discuss the core economic issues in the large group [Saturday], but who knows," Fehr said.
Fehr also said NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and NHLPA Executive Director Donald Fehr, who did not attend the morning session, met privately Friday afternoon, but he wouldn't characterize what was discussed.
Daly said the private meeting between Commissioner Bettman and Donald Fehr is consistent with how these negotiations have progressed.
"I don't think it's that dissimilar to what has gone on throughout this process," Daly said. "I think there has been a lot of dialogue. I don't think that has ever been shut down. As part of a healthy process, it shouldn't ever be shut down. I don't know if there was anything real concrete about it."
Daly was not prepared to say when the League would have to start cancelling regular-season games, but he admitted they are at risk.
"I don't think it can be any more urgent than where we are now," Daly said. "We've had that level of urgency for a long time, but as I've said, you can meet all you want, if there is no compromise or no movement or no new proposals, I'm not sure at the end of the day what you're meeting over. I think there is a very high degree of urgency certainly on our side. I can't speak for their side, but I'm sure they would tell you there is a degree of urgency there too."
Both sides said progress was made on various non-core economic issues Friday. Daly said the League and the Union came to agreements in some areas.
"I don't want to use the adjective optimistic, but it was a productive discussion," Steve Fehr said. "We had a good session. Hopefully, it will continue and build momentum."
The morning session focused on what Daly described as "a good discussion on drug testing" that included possible enhancements to the current system. He said that while the sides don't agree on everything, they have made strides in discussing improvements to the current system and they are "being prudent."
"Again, these are issues that have to be dealt with," Daly said. "We had hoped we could have dealt with the more critical fundamental issues and we actually thought that would put us in a better position to compromise a lot of these sub issues, for lack of a better term, but it didn't happen that way. The calendar is ticking away and we might as well use our time somehow."
Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl