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NHLPA's turn to return serve

NHL players' association head Donald Fehr speaks to

NHL players' association head Donald Fehr speaks to reporters following collective bargaining talks in Toronto. (Oct. 16, 2012) Credit: AP

At one stage of this drawn-out saga known as NHL (Lockout) 12 -- no one would ever dream of buying it as a video game -- the PA's special counsel Steve Fehr said negotiations "weren't like ping-pong", that either side could come up with new ideas, new offers, to break the impasse.

That may have been true at the time, but not now. Your serve, NHLPA.

Thursday, after a five-hour bargaining session in Manhattan on 41st Street and 8th Avenue, in the offices of Proskauer, Rose, the league's attorneys, Commissioner Gary Bettman and PA boss Donald Fehr stood on a windy sidewalk and delivered a couple tight-lipped comments on the day's talks.  Translation:  No breakthroughs. There's some bridges to build.

In fact, what happened was that the  NHL responded to proposals on revenue-sharing and the make-whole provision to honor existing contracts, moving slightly, I'm told, not far. Well, today, the NHLPA needs to move toward the middle as well in order to keep the snail's pace inching ahead.

Seems to me, as one of observers standing in the media scrum and talking to those familiar with the proceedings, that each side is reluctant to stick a spoke in the bicycle wheel and derail the talks. So they trudge on, lawyered up, unhappily.

To be sure, negotiations are a matter of ebb and flow, as Bettman correctly said. But at this juncture, with a 60 or 64 game season starting Dec. 1 in the balance, they also are like ping-pong, back and forth, serve and volley. I would not be surprised at all if the game lingers through the weekend, even though fans are long past the fascination of watching the bouncing ball, yet dreading a kill shot.


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