Still no date for NHL bargaining talks

NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly.

NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly.

TERRY KOSHAN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:01 AM ET

Great news for all fans of the National Hockey League.

NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly emerged from a meeting with the NHL Players’ Association on Monday afternoon to declare that the sides have a “tentative understanding on closing out the finances for last year,” and that players will get back most of, if not all of, the 8.5% of their salaries that was put into escrow.

As for actually trying to plan meetings regarding a new collective bargaining agreement, there was little discussion. Neither NHL commissioner Gary Bettman nor players’ association union boss Donald Fehr were at the meeting, but both were in attendance at an NHL alumni dinner on Monday night.

Yet no new bargaining discussions were planned as a result. Daly had been hopeful talks could resume this week.

Daly told a group of reporters, who had been lingering for several hours on the sidewalk outside the league’s

Bay St. offices, that the NHL is “100% focused on not missing any regular-season games.”

To which player agent Allan Walsh, who represents NHLers Martin Havlat, Patrik Elias and Marc-Andre Fleury, among others, said on his Twitter account (walsha): “Can you believe this cows---!”

Aren’t work stoppages wonderful?

At the snail’s pace that both sides clearly are willing to work, don’t hold your breath about meetings in the near future. Nothing substantial between the sides has been exchanged since Sept. 12.

Despite the lack of talks, Day figured the sides are “light years” ahead of where they were at this point on the calendar eight years ago, when a lockout eventually killed the 2004-05 NHL season. Back then, three months passed between meetings and the season was cancelled.

“We certainly have not got frustrated with the process to the point where are not meeting just not to meet,” Daly said. “We have been talking within the same framework, but we have a financial divide we have to find out how to bridge.”

But that’s not going to happen unless the two sides sit down across the table, trying to reach an amicable conclusion. The legendary Bobby Orr was on to something when he said last week that Fehr and Bettman should be put in the same room and not be allowed to emerge until a new CBA is done.

“It’s important to get the talks going again,” Daly said. “But you also have to have something to say, and I think it is fair to say we feel like we need to hear from the players association in a meaningful way because I don’t think they have really moved off their initial proposal, which was made more than a month ago now.

“We have kept in close contact and it is fair to say both sides are working, but they are working internally right now.”

Reports have said the Winter Classic scheduled for Jan. 1 and involving the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Detroit Red Wings could be wiped off the board by mid-November, but Daly claimed that had not come up.

“Internally, we are not focused on the Winter Classic and we are not focused on a cancellation date,” Daly said. “I am not even sure we have come to a conclusion with respect to what that date has to be, but that date has nothing to do with bargaining anyway.”

What might be expected this week is the cancellation of more pre-season games. Last week, the NHL announced that exhibition games through the end of September were toast. The regular season is slated to start on Oct. 11, but if it is obvious weeks before that date that a new CBA is not close, the league will start to knock regular-season games off the books.

“We’re going to have to look as the week goes along as to where we are on the calendar and where we are in bargaining and what that means logistically in terms of concluding a deal and getting back on the ice,” Daly said in reference to chopping more pre-season games. “We will make announcements when we need to make announcements.”

There’s only one announcement fans care about. And it’s not going to come any time soon.

SOME PLAYERS FEAR THE WORST

Told that some NHL players think the lockout could wipe out the entire 2012-13 season, NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly wasn’t sure he bought it.

“I’m hoping that some of that pessimism is intentional pessimism because certainly that is not where our mind-set is,” Daly said Monday.

“We don’t want an extended work stoppage and we don’t want to miss any regular-season games.”

Detroit Red Wings forward Dan Cleary told a Detroit newspaper that he was just trying to be “realistic” regarding the notion the lockout could last into next summer. That’s what happened eight years ago, when the 2004-05 season died because of a lockout.

“I think people don’t think it can go a year,” Cleary told the Detroit Free Press. “Just trying to be realistic. I think the league is waiting for us to make the move, and we’re waiting for them to move. I don’t see it coming from our end. We’ve given them a couple of good options that they can work with, and they, obviously, feel it’s not good enough.”


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