Still No Solution after Thursday Night Meeting

Representatives from the National Hockey League and the NHL Players’ Association met for four hours Thursday evening but failed to come to an agreement on a new collective bargaining agreement.

Neither side commented on the details of the meeting but the NHLPA admitted that there were still “significant philosophical differences” between the league and the players.

Reportedly, the NHL informally proposed a system with a hard salary cap of $42 million. There are also rumors that the deal included a salary range starting in the low $30 million range and reaching up to the $42 million mark.

Prior to the meeting, the league was rumored to be offering a deal with a dollar-for-dollar luxury tax taking effect at $40 million and a hard cap on top of it at $50 million.

While no further meetings are scheduled, reportedly “the lines of communication remained open” between the two sides.

Talks Continue in Effort to Save Season

At an undisclosed location in Toronto, NHL and NHLPA leaders met for the third time in two weeks in a last-ditch effort to save the 2004-2005 season from cancellation. Talks concluded around 6:00 PM EST but the specific topics of the meeting were not released.

“The meeting has concluded for the day and we will meet again this week,” NHL executive vice-president Bill Daly said in a statement. “We have no further comment at this time.”

The next meeting is rumored to be in New York on Thursday or Friday, although neither side would confirm or deny it.

In a statement of his own, NHL Players’ Association senior director Ted Saskin stated, “After meeting today we have agreed to continue discussions and will not be making any further comment at this time.”

Wednesday’s talks were initiated by the league, after two meetings last week requested by Players’ Association president Trevor Linden failed to yield results. Like the first two meetings, only a small group from each side was present on Wednesday.

At Linden’s request, he, Saskin and outside counsel John McCambridge met with Daly, Calgary Flames part-owner Harley Hotchkiss and outside counsel Bob Batterman. In addition to the “Original Six,” Wednesday’s meeting included New Jersey Devils president and general manager Lou Lamoriello, whose presence was requested by the NHLPA.

The meeting came on the same day as Edmonton Oilers owner Cal Nichols announced that he would request the suspension of the Oilers’ franchise if the league resumed play without a salary cap.

“This isn’t sabre-rattling. It’s the truth,” Nichols said. “I have no desire to keep doing what I’m doing and I would recommend that we suspend the franchise and look at our options, or at moving it.”

Second Meeting Ends with No Deal

The second day of meetings between smaller groups from the National Hockey League and the NHL Players’ Association ended without a new collective bargaining agreement. No firther meetings are scheduled but both sides confirmed their intention to meet again.

There was some good dialogue,” said Ted Saskin, NHLPA senior director. “We clearly have some serious differences of opinion but we continue to try and find ways to bridge the gap.”

“We’ve had two good days of communication,” NHL executive vice president Bill Daly told reporters. “But we still have very strong philosophical differences.”

The meetings began on Wednesday as an eleventh-hour effort by NHLPA president Trevor Linden to save the season. Linden invited Daly, Calgary Flames’ part-owner Harley Hotchkiss and NHL outside counsel Bob Batterman to meet with himself, Saskin and Players’ Association outside counsel John McCambridge.

Both NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and NHLPA executive director Bob Goodenow were left uninvited.

“I give Trevor Linden a lot of credit for bringing us together again,” Daly stated, also calling the meetings “the best dynamic to date in this process.”

Neither side will confirm exactly what was discussed over the last two days.

“We just continue to work very hard at trying to satisfy both parties,” said Daly.

Saskin confirmed that a salary cap, what the owners refer to as “cost-certainty,” is still an issue.

The second meeting came amid a flurry of rumors. Earlier in the day, the Phoenix Coyotes and Mighty Ducks of Anaheim were reported to have begun the process of setting up a training camp, ordering equipment and contacting personnel. Both teams denied those reports.

“There’s no substance to that whatsoever,” said Ducks head coach Mike Babcock. “That’s not true at all.”

“That’s completely erroneous,” Phoenix general manager Mike Barnett said. “I have not spoken to any members of our roster in two months. I don’t even know where one-third of our roster is. Some of them are spread all over the globe. No one in our management group has contacted our players since November.”

Hotchkiss was not present at Thursday’s meeting after attending Wednesday’s session, as he had returned to Calgary for the funeral of J.R. (Bud) McCaig, a part-owner of the Flames who died on Tuesday.

The two sides have agreed to continue meeting, however the timing for that is unknown. “We don’t have anything scheduled,” said Daly.

Saskin simply stated, “the lines of communication remain open.”

Second Meeting Scheduled for Thursday

NHL collective bargaining agreement talks lasted almost five hours on Wednesday and lead to a second meeting in as many days as the two sides attempt to come to an eleventh-hour agreement.

With the season on the verge of cancellation, NHL Players’ Association president Trevor Linden requested a small-scale meeting at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport on Wednesday. Linden, along with NHLPA senior director Ted Saskin and outside counsel John McCambridge represented the NHLPA while Calgary Flames’ part-owner Harley Hotchkiss, NHL executive vice-president Bill Daly and outside counsel Bob Batterman attended on behalf of the league.

Neither NHL commissioner Gary Bettman nor NHLPA executive director Bob Goodenow were present.

Wednesday’s talks were described as “a good, candid dialogue” by Daly.

“I thought the atmosphere was good,” Daly told reporters after the meeting. “But I don’t want to add any other than that. We want to continue the process.”

“There was dialogue and communication, and that’s what I set out to accomplish,” Linden stated.

In his only statement of the day, Hotchkiss said, “We credit Trevor Linden’s initiative in requesting this session, which was informal, open and professional and which resulted in a constructive exchange of viewpoints.”

The groups will meet again in Toronto on Thursday to continue discussions.

League, Union to Meet on Wednesday

The National Hockey League will meet with the NHL Players’ Association on Wednesday, the first such meeting since each side rejected the other’s collective bargaining agreement proposal on December 14.

The meeting will feature a smaller group than previous negotiations, with each side bringing only three representatives. Notibly absent will be NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and NHLPA executive directory Bob Goodenow.

“The union has requested a ‘smaller group’ meeting at the suggestion of Trevor Linden,” Bill Daly, NHL executive vice-president and chief legal officer, said via e-mail. “We agreed to meet on that basis. We remain still hopeful that progress can be made toward a resolution.”

The Players’ Association will be represented by Linden, NHLPA senior director Ted Saskin and outside counsel John McCambridge. Daly, Calgary Flames part-owner Harley Hotchkiss and outside counsel Bob Batterman will attend on behalf of the owners.

NHL Board Meeting Cancelled

A meeting of the National Hockey League’s Board of Governors scheduled for January 14 has been cancelled, NHL executive vice-president and chief legal officer Bill Daly announced. The meeting was scheduled on December 22.

Daly cited a lack of developments in collective bargaining as the reason for the meeting’s cancellation.

“After canvassing each of the 30 clubs, and in light of the lack of developments or a new offer from the union, the clubs were unanimously of the view that there is no need for a meeting at this point in time.”

The Board of Governors last met on September 14 when the lockout was announced. It was widely speculated that the result of the January 14 meeting would be the cancellation of the season.

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman can cancel the season at any time, without first calling a meeting of the Board, so the season may still be cancelled in mid-January.

There was also speculation that the meeting was simply to put pressure on the NHL Players’ Association. The NHLPA wouldn’t comment on the meeting.

“The cancelling of the board of governors meeting is a league matter and not something the NHLPA will comment on,” NHLPA senior director Ted Saskin said in a statement.

The meeting’s cancellation could validate the latter theory or could be a sign that the two sides are in negotiations that would require that the season not be cancelled.

Thus far, both sides have denied that a new offer is in the works.