Talks (yawn) will resume between NHL, NHLPA

It's normal locks and security at the Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary, but the fences and chains...

It's normal locks and security at the Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary, but the fences and chains seem symbolic of the player lockout. (MIKE DREW/QMI AGENCY)

BRUCE GARRIOCH, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 3:23 PM ET

So, who'll blink first?

The NHL and the NHL Players' Association haven't been able to agree on a lot since the lockout started Sept. 15, but they have decided to take another run at trying to get a collective bargaining agreement in place.

After getting together for a meeting Friday in Toronto, the two sides have set aside Wednesday and Thursday in New York City to try to get the discussions back on track with two weeks of the regular season already cancelled.

The season was supposed to open in four venues Thursday, including Montreal and Calgary. Instead of watching games, fans will have one eye on the discussions to see if NHL commissioner Gary Bettman can make a deal with the union.

NHL deputy commisioner Bill Daly confirmed the sides will not talk about the "core economic" issues. That doesn't mean the agenda can't change. Whether these talks are actually going to lead anywhere is questionable.

The NHL wants the NHLPA to bring a new offer to the table and though executive director Donald Fehr has been crafting a proposal, nobody is sure when, or if, he'll bring it to the table any time soon to try to kickstart negotiations.

Many players believe if the NHL wants to get a deal done, then it should start making some concessions. The league tabled an offer Sept. 12 that was rejected by the players and there hasn't been movement on either side since.

Whether Fehr does make an offer or not, the chances of having an 82-game season hang in the balance in the next couple of weeks. If the NHL can get a CBA in place this month, then a full season is still possible.

The two sides claimed Friday's meeting was held to try to find a way to "move the process forward." Neither did because the league and the players didn't back off their positions so the two sides are still far apart on finding a resolution.

It makes some sense to try to get the smaller issues out of the way if they're going to eventually reach a deal, but as long as they keep avoiding how to split the pot of $3.3 billion in revenues, there isn't going to be a solution.

Players are finding different ways to pass the time.

Some are playing in Europe, others are waiting. New Jersey's Patrik Elias and San Jose's Martin Havlat were in Barcelona Sunday to see Real Madrid face Barcelona in El Clasico.

"It was an amazing experience to see it," said Havlat, who watched Real Madrid and Barcelona battle to a 2-2 tie, in an email. "We can thank Gary and his lockout for the chance to see the match but would rather be playing hockey."

Havlat isn't alone in that thinking, but the players aren't prepared to accept just any deal.

Devils' defenceman Bryce Salvador told NJ.com whether the league has an 82-game season doesn't matter at this juncture and that getting the right deal in place is more important.

"The way I look at it is I'm focusing more on having the right deal, not so much on how many games we'll be able to play," Salvador said in the inteview. "We need the right deal so this doesn't happen every five or six years. That's what the players are striving for. We just have to get it right."

The only way the league and the players can get it right is by getting back to playing. Avoiding the issue of how to split the pot isn't going to get a deal done but at least they'll be sitting in the same room together.

That can't be a bad thing but if they don't bring the big issue to the table, then they'll could be talking in circles.

LOCKOUT TIMELINE

THE OUTLINE OF OFFERS

JULY 13: The NHL makes its first proposal for a new CBA. The deal would roll back the NHLPA's share of revenues to 43% and immediately mean a 24% rollback in salaries.

AUG. 13: NHLPA tables a four-year offer that includes an "industry growth fund" with revenue sharing for small markets. By the fourth year, the players would maintain 57% of revenues.

AUG 28: The NHL insists it doesn't like the length of NHLPA offer and counters with a proposal that would give the players 46% of the revenues in the fourth year. Talks soon break off.

SEPT. 12: Gary Bettman puts a take it or leave it offer on the table with an average of 46% of revenues for the players. Gives the NHLPA until 11:59 p.m on Sept. 15 to accept deal.

SEPT. 15: With no talks, NHL doors are locked and there haven't been any offers exchanged since.

OCT. 5: Bettman, deputy commissioner Bill Daly huddle in NHLPA offices in Toronto with NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr and special counsel Steve Fehr. Neither side budges off position.

bruce.garrioch@sunmedia.ca

Twitter: @sungarrioch


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