NHL, NHLPA to re-meet Tues. evening

The seeds of cautious optimism are starting to sow as the National Hockey League and the players’ union plan to meet face-to-face for a second straight day in New York City. Monday’s talks marked the first time the NHL and union met in person since Dec. 13.

Full collective-bargaining talks between the two sides, embroiled in a bitter labour dispute to close out 2012, are not expected to resume Tuesday evening, according to a spokesperson from the Players’ Association. Prior to this evening’s formal in-person meetings, the sides will be spending New Year’s Day in conference calls with each other and meeting internally in small groups to go over the details of the PA’s comprehensive counter-proposal, presented to the league on Monday.

The in-person meetings were originally scheduled to take place between 6:30 and 7:00 p.m. ET Tuesday, but were pushed back to 9 p.m.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman told the gathered press Monday that a deal would have to be signed by Jan. 11 in order for the puck to drop on a regular season that would begin on Jan. 19, thus salvaging a 48-game schedule. Otherwise, the 2012-13 season would be cancelled.

Several reports indicate that a season as long as 52 games could be played if a new CBA is in place prior to Jan. 11, thus adding millions of dollars to the 2013 revenue pie.

But it is not what has been said by Bettman, PA chief Donald Fehr or anyone else close to the negotiating table that has spurred optimism in 2013. It’s what hasn’t been said or made public.

Unlike previous offers, few details of the players’ counter-proposal have leaked to the press. There were no dramatic walkouts during Monday’s meeting, no angry tweets from players, no wayward memos, no promises to die on hills.

That both the league and players are quietly working hard on a statutory holiday — the day once reserved for a Winter Classic showdown between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Detroit Red Wings — has given rise to hope for a saved season among those who have been following this lengthy lockout since mid-September.

And the general consensus among tweeting hockey media types and those with inside contacts (for what it’s worth) is that a shortened season will be saved.