Tampa Bay Times Forum Credit: Tasha Meares

Sense of Cautious Optimism Heading into Today’s Meeting

As we begrudgingly head into Day 82 of the 2012 NHL Lockout, there is a sense of cautious optimism heading into today’s negotiations.

For the second consecutive day, the NHL and the NHLPA have met in an attempted to nail down the terms of the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. However, due to their self-imposed radio silence, we are unsure how much progress they have actually made in the past few days.

Last week, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman suggested that a select group of owners and players be allowed to meet without the brass from the NHL or the NHLPA being involved. Several players, including the Tampa Bay Lightning’s Martin St. Louis, and former Bolts player Brad Richards, have met with 6 owners from around the league, including Lightning owner Jeff Vinik.

While both NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and NHLPA Executive Director Donald Fehr have remained on the sidelines for these discussions, NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly and NHLPA Special Counsel Steve Fehr have been allowed to represent their respective sides.

This new format to the discussions has allowed for two days full days of exhaustive negotiations; however, the amount of actual progress that has been achieved remains largely unclear.

Tuesday’s meeting lasted for almost 10 hours. Negotiations on Wednesday lasted even longer, concluding around 1am.

Here is a rare joint statement made by Bill Daly and Steve Fehr  via NHL.com regarding Tuesday’s meeting.

Both sides exchanged “proposals” on Wednesday. According to Katie Strang at ESPNNewYork.com, Bill Daly had this to say:

“[We] had good, candid dialogue on a lot of issues. There continues to be some critical open issues between the two parties,” Daly said. “And, we understand the union should be getting back to us on those issues.”

From what I can see, there are areas that they have made significant progress in, but in some areas it seems like they have grown further apart.

According to Scott Burnside at ESPN.com, at the end of Wednesday, the NHL made what appeared to be a major move toward the middle, upping its offer to guarantee existing contracts from $211 million to $300 million. But the pool of money comes with some conditions, including a 10-year length to a new CBA and a five-year cap on contract lengths — both conditions the players oppose. Some of that make-whole money comes from player pensions, which is also a concern to the players.

The NHLPA plans to meet today, with both sides returning to the table at some point after that.

Today could indeed be the day that the deal is done and we return to what is left of business as usual. However, it could also be the day that the season is lost for good.

I will remain on the side of cautious optimism for now.


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