NHL owners and players continued talks aimed at saving a shortened season on Tuesday, with a contract agreement needed by the middle of this month in order to get games on the ice.
“The fact that we’re involved in a continuous process is something that I’m glad to see,” NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said as discussions ended for the day. “But we’re clearly not done yet.”
The two sides were expected to meet again yesterday as they weigh the latest proposals and counter-proposals for a new collective bargaining agreement.
On Monday, the NHL Players’ Association presented a response to the latest contract proposal from the league — which came on Thursday last week.
NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly declined to go into specifics on that offer, but the proposal was reported to include a six-year limit on player contracts — up from the five years the league had sought previously — along with movement toward the players on issues including year-to-year salary variance and contract buy-out regulations.
Bettman said the league moved toward the players again on Tuesday on some issues, but not all.
“In our response there were certain things that the players’ association asked for that we agreed to,” Bettman said. “There were some things that we moved in their direction and there were other things that we said ‘no,’ but that’s part of the process.”
That the two sides are at least talking is heartening for ice hockey fans, but time is short.
Team owners have already wiped out 625 games up to Jan. 14 and vow they will not stage a season with less than 48 games per team.
Bettman said on Monday that play would have to start by Jan. 19 if the league is to prevent the loss of the entire season to the lockout.
If play does not start by then, the league is faced with canceling the entire season for the second time, after a similar bitter dispute over finances scuppered all games in 2004 to 2005.