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NHL season still in limbo after Board of Governors meeting

The season has not been saved. But the prospect of nuclear winter is not upon the NHL.

The season has not been saved. But the prospect of nuclear winter is not upon the NHL.

The league and the NHLPA engaged in on-and-off meetings for nearly nine hours yesterday in an attempt to end the now 81-day-long lockout.

“We had a number of meetings today. Good, candid dialogue,” said NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly. “We understand they should be getting back to us tomorrow.”

“We had a series of very candid discussions tonight and we plan on meeting again tomorrow,” Winnipeg Jets defenseman Ron Hainsey said.

It is believed that the players presented the league a proposal during one of the sessions, although a prominent Devil told Metro in a text message that he did not “have anything” in terms of information regarding what was discussed.

“We are pleased with the process that is ongoing,” NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman told reporters inside the Times Square Westin following the league’s Board of Governors meeting at the Proskauer Rose law firm. The firm represents the league.

Owner Jim Dolan, Madison Square Vice President Hank J. Ratner and general manager Glen Sather represented the Rangers at the Board of Governors meeting. Islanders Owner Charles Wang and GM Garth Snow, along with Devils owner Jeff Vanderbeek and GM Lou Lamoriello were also in attendance.

According to Bettman, the Board of Governors meeting lasted two hours and was an update on the status of the labor talks. Bettman did not go into specifics and did not take questions from the assembled media.

“They’re talking and that’s the most important thing. As long as you keep talking, there has to be substance,” Lamoriello said. “I’ve always been hopeful there’d be a season until there isn’t. We just have to leave it in the hands of the people that are talking.”

Added Columbus Blue Jackets President of Hockey Operations John Davidson: “We feel good about the information we got.”

Over the two days, the league was represented by Pittsburgh Penguins
co-owner Ron Burkle, Winnipeg Jets Executive Chairman Mark Chipman,
Calgary Flames co-owner Murray Edwards, Boston Bruins owner Jeremy
Jacobs, Toronto Maple Leafs Chairman of the Board Larry Tanenbaum, Tampa
Bay Lightning chairman Jeff Vinik and NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill
Daly, while 18 players, including Sidney Crosby, Brad Richards, Martin
St. Louis, Jonathan Toews, Shane Doan and NHLPA Special Council Steve
Fehr, negotiated on behalf of the union. The sides met in full groups
and smaller caucuses during the meetings. Reportedly, the Penguins
contingent were in the forefront in bringing the two sides together.

The two sides began to find common ground during a marathon, 10-hour session Tuesday in which Bettman and NHLPA executive director Don Fehr did not participate. It is believed that Bettman had proposed to Fehr that the owners and players should meet without the two sides’ respective leaders after last week’s two-day session with the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service collapsed.

Player contracting rights has been the biggest impediment between the league and the players. NHL owners wanted to eliminate the back-diving contracts, such as the 12-year, $63.3 million contract agreed to by Blackhawks right wing Marian Hossa. While the average annual value of Hossa’s deal is $5.275 million, he will only make $1 million a year in the final four years of the contract. The league views those deals as cap circumvention. The league also wants limits on player contracts, having suggested a format similar to the ones in place with the NBA. Finally, the league wants a 10-year CBA.

Unsurprisingly, the players do not want the lengths of the contracts limited, arguing that it will harm their ability to sell themselves on the free agent marketplace.

Crosby expressed frustration with the league’s bargaining platform to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in November, saying the limitation of contracts will cause the hands of the Penguins GM “to be tied. That takes his skill of being a GM or his strength of having to [make] that decision away.”

The lockout may have cost the NHL nearly half a billion dollars in revenue. Two weeks ago, Bettman estimated the league was losing between $18 to $20 million a day during the lockout, which has seen the cancellation of 422 regular season games along with the Winter Classic and the All-Star Weekend. Bettman’s statement followed Daly’s assertion in September that the league lost $100 million in preseason revenues. The league made $3.3 billion in revenues in 2011-12.

Follow NHL beat writer Denis Gorman on Twitter
@DenisGorman for breaking news updates on the state of the NHL lockout and negotiations.

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