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No deal, but NHL, union expected to meet again today

Donald Fehr, executive director of the NHL Players'

Donald Fehr, executive director of the NHL Players' Association, speaks to the media following talks after meeting with the NHL. (Nov. 9, 2012) Photo Credit: AP

After more than five hours of negotiations in an attempt to reach a new collective bargaining agreement Wednesday night, the NHL and NHLPA recessed at about 1 a.m. Thursday morning, without a deal.

"We moved together on some issues, but there's still a ways to go,'' said Donald Fehr, the players association's executive director. Fehr said both sides will reassess before deciding on further meetings, but expects to meet later Thursday.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said federal mediator Scott Beckenbaugh was present at the Manhattan meeting and asked both sides to return at 10 a.m. He said he remains hopeful. Asking Beckenbaugh to return, he said, was "a joint request . . . .can't hurt.'' Bettman declined to discuss specific issues, except pensions, which he said was complicated.

The two sides discussed a revised offer on a collective bargaining agreement delivered by the union Wednesday afternoon.

It marked the fourth such exchange of proposals to end the 109-day standoff in the last week, and the sides now are essentially revising a main document of about 26 pages, although several key issues remained unresolved, including the amount of a salary cap in 2013-14, pensions, individual contract limits and the term of the deal. The league wants a 10-year pact, and the union wants concessions in return.

There certainly is some urgency in the talks; the league's deadline for a 48-game season to begin is Jan. 19. In order to stage training camps, a deal must be completed by about Jan. 11.

After talks ended for the night, Fehr did not confirm or deny that the players filed a disclaimer of interest, but said it was still an option, which indicates that they did not dissolve the union and form a trade association. The NBA players association chose the route in 2011 before reaching agreement on a new CBA.

It is believed that if the union is satisfied with the progress of the talks, it will delay employing a disclaimer, which is a form of decertification.

On Dec. 21, after several days of voting, more than 700 players agreed overwhelmingly to authorize the PA board to decide by midnight, although the deadline could pass and Fehr and the board could seek another membership vote later in the negotiating process.

When word leaked of the vote last month, the NHL responded immediately with a suit in U.S. District Court seeking a declaratory judgment that the lockout was legal, and an unfair labor practice charge with the NLRB. Those cases are pending.

Bettman said Tuesday night that a disclaimer was not a concern. But it certainly would stall the talks, which could continue, because the trade association would name Fehr, and possibly his brother, special counsel Steve Fehr, as advisers.

Since the lockout began on Sept. 15, 626 games have been cancelled, including the Winter Classic, which was to be staged in Ann Arbor, Mich. between the Red Wings and Maple Leafs on Jan. 1. The players have forfeited six of their 13 paychecks and the league has lost hundreds of millions in revenues.

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