NHL talks to resume with help of federal mediators
After watching negotiations go off the rails in a very public setting last week, the NHL and NHL Players' Association are heading back underground, and they've invited some company.
The sides are set to resume talks at an undisclosed location Wednesday with U.S. federal mediators Scot L. Beckenbaugh and John Sweeney rejoining the process. Those men first met with league and union leaders Nov. 27 and 28 before deciding they couldn't help negotiations along.
The NHLPA continued to push for mediation when players and owners gathered in New York last week and the NHL eventually agreed. However, deputy commissioner Bill Daly acknowledged Tuesday that he would carry ``no expectations'' into the next session.
Some traction was made during the last round of negotiations when owners and players met directly (commissioner Gary Bettman and NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr were both kept out of the room) although talks broke down in spectacular fashion shortly after Fehr met reporters on Thursday night and announced that agreements had been reached on most of the main issues.
Even though the NHL subsequently rejected the union's offer and pulled its own off the table, the NHLPA leader stuck by his comments when he spoke to the Canadian Auto Workers in Toronto over the weekend.
``My comments from a couple of days ago stand on their own,'' Fehr said Saturday. ``I think we were very close.''
The biggest change since the sides last met with mediators is the NHL's willingness to increase the amount of deferred make-whole payments to US$300 million, a jump of $89-million from what had previously been on the table. The league also dropped proposed changes to rules governing unrestricted free agency, arbitration and entry-level contracts while the NHLPA began entertaining the introduction of term limits on deals and increasing the overall length of the CBA.
The lockout hit Day 88 on Wednesday and has already resulted in the cancellation of 526 regular-season games through Dec. 30, plus the Winter Classic and all-star game.