NEW YORK, - After a bargaining session that stretched well into the night, the NHL and NHL Players' Association were expected to get right back at it Wednesday.
The key negotiators have scheduled another round of important talks, with both sides anticipating that they would centre on the "make whole" provision that is viewed as the most important hurdle to reaching a deal.
A session that lasted over seven hours Tuesday largely focused on the contract issues that will also have to be worked out before the 53-day lockout comes to an end.
The first sign that true back-and-forth negotiations were finally underway came from how little was said after the meeting wrapped up at 10:15 p.m. The NHLPA declined to comment while deputy commissioner Bill Daly issued a short statement saying that he would "not characterize the substance or detail of the discussions until their conclusion."
With the talks at a critical point, the league requested that the sides go underground and hold meetings at an undisclosed location.
There appears to be agreement that the players' share in revenue will drop to 50 per cent at some point during the next CBA. The union wants assurances that all of the contracts agreed to under the previous system, which saw players receive 57 per cent, will be made whole — meaning they're paid out in full.
After agreeing to take less revenue, the NHLPA doesn't believe it should have to offer concessions on contract issues. The league has proposed changes to unrestricted free agency, entry-level deals, arbitration and contract lengths.
Among the other important issues to be ironed out is revenue sharing, which hasn't been discussed much lately after being a focal point earlier in negotiations. There is still much work to be done.
While refusing to make any predictions about how soon a deal might be struck, NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr struck an optimistic tone on Tuesday afternoon prior to negotiations resuming. It was the first time the sides had held a formal bargaining session since Oct. 18 and he indicated it could be a start to the push for a new deal.
"The players' view has always been that we ought to keep negotiating until we find a way to get an agreement," said Fehr. "You sort of stay at it day by day — so it's very good to be getting back to the table. We hope that this time it produces more progress than we've seen in the past and we can figure out a way to make an agreement and to get the game back on the ice as soon as possible."