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November 16, 2012

NHL, union might try not talking in search of deal

NEW YORK — If the NHL and the players’ association have run out of things to talk about, how can they ever find a way to make a deal to save the hockey season?

It is a question both sides seem to have trouble answering, and not because they are being guarded or coy. The lockout is now in its third month, and there is no obvious path to progress.

There was a hint of optimism after the league and locked-out players met a few times, but the view quickly became bleak. After a one-day break, the sides met Sunday and that brief return to the table also turned badly quickly. They haven’t met — and have barely talked — since then.

Now NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman has suggested to players’ association chief Donald Fehr that they take a two-week break from each other. If talking doesn’t work, it is possible that not talking will?

Frustration and a hint of anger have entered the equation. So perhaps a cooling-off period would make some sense before the sides agree to get together again.

“I think what you have seen is disappointment with where we find ourselves in the process,” NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said Friday in an email to The Associated Press. “I don’t think it’s a case of personal animosity.”

That might be the only positive development of this week.

The problem with staying apart is that time has become a major factor working against them. All games through Nov. 30 have already been taken off the schedule, more cancellations are likely within a week, the Winter Classic has been wiped out, the All-Star game is the next big event in jeopardy, and the whole season could be lost, too, in the blink of an eye.

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