NEW YORK (AP) — It took several hours on Thursday, but negotiators from the NHL and the players’ association found their way back to the bargaining table for the third consecutive day of talks aimed at ending the long lockout.
The union held internal discussions most of the day, while keeping in contact with the NHL, and the sides finally reconvened around 5 p.m.
Even with talks that lasted into the wee hours the previous two nights, a deal to start the delayed and shortened hockey season remained elusive. Optimism that emerged late Tuesday night seemed to have waned as conversations continued.
The dynamic of having owners and players at the bargaining table without NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and union leader Donald Fehr also lost its appeal. Fehr, along with his brother, players’ attorney Steve Fehr, were in Thursday’s session, as were NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly and lead league counsel Bob Batterman. None of the six owners who attended the meetings Tuesday and Wednesday were present, though some players were.
After marathon talks ended shortly before 1 a.m. Thursday, Daly had said that the league would wait to hear from the union regarding “some critical open issues” before getting back to the bargaining table.
In perhaps another sign that momentum had slowed, the union wanted federal mediators to rejoin the discussions. A similar request was turned down by the league earlier this week. Mediators previously were unsuccessful in creating a breakthrough after two days of discussions last week.
Representatives of the league and the players each said Wednesday’s long talks were “candid.” Whether they were productive, too, remained to be seen.
“We had good, candid dialogue,” Daly said early Thursday after nearly nine hours of talks at a Manhattan hotel. “There continue to be some critical open issues between the two parties, and we understand the union should be getting back to us (Thursday) on some of those issues.”