NHL, players meet mediator separately
NEW YORK—The NHL and the union got back to work today—just not with each other yet.
Both sides had plans to meet separately with federal mediator Scot Beckenbaugh in the morning, but hadn’t set up a time to return to bargaining in an effort to save the season.
Commissioner Gary Bettman set a Jan. 11 deadline for a deal so the season can begin eight days later.
Representatives from the league and the union met twice yesterday for small meetings—one dealing with the pension plan—but never got together for a full bargaining session.
A long night of talks Wednesday that stretched into the early-morning hours didn’t end well and likely kept the sides apart most of the day yesterday.
No new full-scale negotiations took place and outside of a few relatively brief, small sessions on specific topics, it was basically a lost day.
The sides can’t afford many more days like that.
All games through Jan. 14, along with the all-star game, have been cancelled, claiming more than 50 percent of the original schedule.
The talks appeared to take a downward turn late Wednesday after the players’ association passed on declaring a disclaimer of interest that would have dissolved the union and turned it into a trade association.
The discord carried over to yesterday when Bettman had said he expected to resume negotiations at 10 a.m. at the request of the mediator.
But the union was holding internal meetings then and didn’t arrive at the league office until a few hours later.
When players and staff did get there, they did so without executive director Donald Fehr.
The group discussed a problem that arose regarding the reporting by clubs of hockey-related revenue, and how both sides sign off on the figures at the end of the fiscal year.
The union felt the language had been changed without proper notification, but the dispute was solved and the meeting ended in about an hour.
The wait for more elaborate talks went on and didn’t end until the players returned—again without Fehr—for a meeting about the pension plan.
That one lasted just under two hours, and again the waiting game ensued.
But this time there wouldn’t be any more talks, big or little. Neither side issued a statement, and Bettman was seen leaving league headquarters shortly after 9 p.m.
The players’ association held a late-afternoon conference call to initiate another vote among union membership that would give the executive board the power to invoke a disclaimer of interest.
Members gave overwhelming approval last month, but the union declined to disclaim before a self-imposed deadline Wednesday night.
It wasn’t immediately known when a new authorization would expire.