Encouraging signs in NHL labor talks Wednesday

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman speaks with reporters following

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman speaks with reporters following labor talks with the NHLPA in Toronto. (Aug. 23, 2012) (Credit: AP)

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If yesterday's developments in the ongoing NHL lockout are indicative of anything, each side is trying hard to make a deal to salvage a 50-60 game season. But as has been the case throughout this process, it won't be easy.

On the second consecutive day of bargaining between a group of players and six owners -- and without commissioner Gary Bettman and NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr -- the sides exchanged written proposals, met back and forth over the course of the day in a midtown hotel, and the league's board of governors was briefed. The discussions concluded at about 12:55 this morning after ending at midnight on Tuesday. Talks are to resume Thursday.

"There continue to be critical open issues between the two parties,'' said deputy commissioner Bill Daly, who added that he expects to hear back from from the players association Thursday on those issues.

Ron Hainsey, a Winnipeg Jets defenseman who was in the sessions, said: "We had a series of meetings, very candid discussions.''

Earlier in the day, the Leafs' Larry Tanenbaum, one of the six owners in the direct talks, said after the two-hour board of governors meeting in Manhattan, "We're going to continue to talk up until we get a deal.''

Bettman also was positive. "We are pleased with the process that is ongoing," he said.

It is believed that a segment of big-market owners -- which includes the Rangers, Canadiens, Flyers and Red Wings -- would like to reach a compromise quickly. But the union will not be pressed into what they believe might be an unfair deal.

The sticking points in the impasse, which has caused the cancellation of 422 games, the Winter Classic and All-Star weekend, are how to divide hockey revenues 50-50 while honoring existing player contracts and solve individual player contract issues, such as extending free-agency eligibility and contract limits of five years, which the NHL wants. That final element was discussed Wednesday nigt.

Some governors and alternates were hopeful after leaving the board meeting at 1 p.m. Columbus Blue Jackets president John Davidson gave a thumbs-up through his car window and said: "We feel good about the information we got."

Said Devils president and general manager Lou Lamoriello: "I've always been hopeful there'd be a season . . . but right now, we just have to leave it in the hands of the people that are talking.' They're talking and that's the most important thing.''

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