NHL, NHLPA to play 3-on-3

NHLPA president Trevor Linden has jump-started more talks with the NHL to get the season going,...

NHLPA president Trevor Linden has jump-started more talks with the NHL to get the season going, scheduled for Wednesday. (Toronto Sun File/Greg Henkenhaf)

BRUCE GARRIOCH -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 8:40 AM ET

The NHL and the NHLPA will leave the big players at home to try and take one last stab at saving the season.

The union and the league confirmed last night they will meet tomorrow in an undisclosed location without NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and NHLPA executive director Bob Goodenow on hand.

NHLPA president Trevor Linden told the Sun last night from Vancouver that he requested the two sides meet for the first time since both sides rejected their respective offers Dec. 14 in Toronto, in hopes of getting some meaningful dialogue going.

Linden, NHLPA senior director Ted Saskin and lawyer John McCambidge will represent the union, while the NHL is sending VP Bill Daly, Calgary Flames part-owner Harley Hotchkiss and legal counsel Bob Batterman to the session.

'CHANGE OF DYNAMICS'

"(Goodenow) was fine with it," Linden said of the decision not to have the union boss present for talks. "I don't think this is uncommon. We've seen this type of thing before in collective bargaining situations. This is a bit of a change of dynamics. That's all it is.

"Instead of having 10 guys sitting down facing 10 other guys, we're going to have three guys facing three guys. I just see this as an opportunity to try to open up the dialogue and see what happens from there. We haven't held any discussions (in more than a month) and I just felt we needed to have a face-to-face meeting to look at the situation to see if there's anything we can do."

The meeting, a source said, will be held in Chicago.

"In the past, the meetings have been very public and we've both rejected each other's offers with big presentations afterwards. We're not going to the table with an offer this time, we're going to hold discussions," said Linden.

"This isn't an attempt to try to make a public-relations move. There's not going to be any public presentations. We're not bringing everybody in for a big discussion. I didn't want to make a big show out of this. I don't think we need to do that."

Daly said in an e-mail that the NHL is willing to talk. NHL insiders say that if there's no deal in place by Friday, there won't be a season.

"The union has asked us to engage in a smaller group meeting and we have agreed to proceed on that basis," Daly said. "We are hopeful that progress can be made towards a resolution."

Linden said he's not sure if the season can be saved, but doesn't want to give up hope.

"I wouldn't say I'm confident," said Linden, "(but) until (Bettman) says the season is cancelled, I will remain optimistic. Obviously, there's pressure here with it being (Jan. 18)."

Players were happy to hear the news.

"I think both sides realize how important it is to have hockey this year," said defenceman Curtis Leschyshyn, a free agent who played for the Senators last season. "Both sides are doing whatever they can to try to save the season. There's too much at stake.

"In any negotiation for a CBA, I think you see both sides have lower-level meetings all of the time. (Not having Bettman and Goodenow in the room) might be a good way to relieve some of the pressure to find common ground."


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