- Last Updated: 9:42 AM, November 7, 2012
- Posted: 1:26 AM, November 7, 2012
Not only did nobody walk out after 10 minutes this time, yesterday’s negotiating session between the NHL and NHLPA — beginning in mid-afternoon and going deep into the night — produced enough progress that the two sides will meet again today in attempt to end the 53-day lockout.
There is, perhaps for the first time since the lockout was instituted on Sept. 16, a sense of optimism grounded in reality that the doors will open on a 2012-13 NHL season, perhaps as soon as the day after Thanksgiving.
The meeting of approximately 7 1/2 hours that was held at an undisclosed location in Manhattan marked the first time the parties had sat across the table from one another since Oct. 18 in Toronto, when commissioner Gary Bettman stalked out after rejecting three players’ initiatives within 10 minutes.
Yesterday’s session, which at various times included permutations of the 13 players — including Sidney Crosby, Martin Biron, Manny Malhotra, David Backes, Milan Lucic and Johan Hedberg — who traveled to New York for the meeting, focused immediately and primarily on the “make-whole” concept regarding existing contracts.
The league, which three weeks ago proposed that escrow losses created by an immediate reduction in the players’ share of hockey-related revenue from 57 to 50 percent be paid on a deferred basis by the players themselves, signaled willingness last week to pick up a portion of the share, if not all of it.
Though the formula was unknown before yesterday, this move prompted a meeting on Saturday between league second Bill Daly and union second Steve Fehr at which hypotheticals were exchanged. That discussion led to yesterday’s full session.
Neither NHL nor NHLPA personnel were available to the press after the meeting was adjourned.
“Sorry, not going to characterize,” Daly wrote in an e-mail to the Post’s Mark Everson.
The league, which had posted its last offer to the players on NHL.com, requested yesterday’s veil of secrecy. Union executive director Don Fehr did hold a press briefing at the PA’s Manhattan headquarters approximately 90 minutes before the negotiations commenced.
“The meeting is about the issues that divide us,” Fehr said at that time. “We’re hopeful that we’ll start bargaining and continue bargaining until we make a deal.”
While “make-whole” will become an essential ingredient of any agreement, it is not the only issue that separates the parties. The league has previously proposed significant restrictions regarding systemic issues, most notably including contract length, free-agency eligibility, salary arbitration and entry-level deals.
“It doesn’t end the matter,” Fehr said about make-whole. “It would certainly matter in and of itself, but there are still other things that are important.”
Though the NHL has canceled all games through November, it is believed the possibility remains a season of up to 70 games could start on Black Friday with the originally scheduled NBC broadcast of the Rangers at Boston if the length of yesterday’s meeting is indeed a signal of meaningful progress.Follow @NYPostsports