Daly, Fehr talk but no NHL labour talks held

Donald Fehr, executive director of the NHLPA, stands with NHLers during a press conference amid...

Donald Fehr, executive director of the NHLPA, stands with NHLers during a press conference amid ongoing NHL labour talks. (STAN BEHAL, QMI Agency)

BRUCE GARRIOCH, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:17 PM ET

The NHL and NHL Players' Association didn't hold any formal talks Friday.

Instead, NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly and union special counsel Steve Fehr talked by phone to see if there was any reason to return to the bargaining table and the result was no talks are planned for Day 70 of the lockout.

Sources say NHL officials feel if the two sides got down to business they could get a collective bargaining agreement in place quickly, if NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr engaged in "give and take" after the union's latest offer Wednesday.

Speaking on Sportsnet's HockeyCentral at Noon Friday, Daly threw a grenade in Fehr's direction when he questioned whether the union leadership really wants to get a deal done.

"I've had my doubts and concerns at certain points in time," said Daly. "I would hope that the players want to play and want to have a season. But I'm not so sure at the end of the day that unless it's on certain terms that union leadership necessarily shares that goal."

That prompted this response from Steve Fehr when he appeared on the show only moments after Daly.

"Of course we want to get a deal done," said Fehr. "That's why we've been working at it and why we've been trying to do it."

Does the league want to get a CBA, asked host Daren Millard?

"We have our doubts," said Fehr. "(That's based on) the way the entire course of the negotiations has played out. The strategy of, first, lock out and then see what happens, the insistence on every major issue being within their structure and certainly the failure to see significant movement in response to the significant movement the players made Wednesday."

The reality is, they aren't as far apart as commissioner Gary Bettman characterized when discussions broke down last week. They need to find an answer to the 'Make Whole' issue on existing contracts, but it could be done.

The NHL has backed off on some of the contract issues that have been at the centre of this deal. Bettman and Daly want to hold more talks but they want the players to understand they're not going to get everything they want.

Sources say the league asked Fehr to list his priorities in the negotiations and then the NHL will try to satisfy those but told him the union is going to have to bend on some issues. Of course, that won't happen if the two sides aren't talking.

"My preference is to get to a botton-line (in negotiations) as quickly as possible but if you get to a bottom-line and the other side isn't moving, that creates a difficult dynamic. It's an unfortunate part of the process," said Daly. "I'd be the first to admit this process has played out not as we would have hoped or expected. We wish we were in a better place and we feel badly for everybody involved in the game -- all those people who make money in the game or make a living off the game being impacted the way they are."

Fehr said the players have moved enough.

"If it was a Thanksgiving dinner, they gave us the relish tray but no turkey," said Fehr of the recent negotiation. "We moved a couple of miles, and they moved a couple of inches, it's fair to say ... We're not prepared to go any further, right now."

There is noise the NHLPA is going to file for decertification so the focus of these talks moves to the courtroom instead of a boardroom. Fehr certainly didn't rule out that possibility, but didn't admit it has been discussed.

"All things are under consideration and we'll see where it goes," said Fehr. "Our preference is to get a deal at the table but obviously that isn't going anywhere right now."

Daly warned the process of decertification would likely ensure there wouldn't be any hockey played in 2012-13.

Asked if decertification scares him, Daly said: "No."

"It's a time-consuming process that would likely lead to the end of the season," said Daly.

That may happen anyway but it could easily be avoided.

bruce.garrioch@sunmedia.ca

Twitter: @sungarrioch

 


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