Seven hours and fifteen minutes of discussion in New York City led to two rather bland announcements by the NHL (the league will not characterize the substance or detail of the discussions until their conclusion) and the NHLPA (the sides will meet again tomorrow, no set time yet). And most of us outside the walls of the discussion said that was a good thing!
Prior to the session, Don Fehr made a real attempt at conciliation by not giving Gary Bettman and Bill Daly any Bulletin Board material. Any question that could have been answered in an inflammatory manner was greeted with a “no comment.” It gave all of us a glimmer of hope that we just might see some progress between these two sides that, until Saturday’s meeting between Steve Fehr and Daly in Chicago, were closing into a sequel of “The Hatfields and McCoys.”
The core economic issue of the 50/50 split, and making contracted players “whole” still remained on the periphery on Tuesday’s session. It appears it will be the key component of Wednesday’s discussions. And while no one would create any negative feedback about Day 1, I was told by one person that it was difficult to judge if any progress was really made at all. “It wasn’t bad, but not much progress.” was most I could muster out of someone familiar with the marathon talks.
Over the few hours and days, we are going to hear about the same talking points that have been on the docket since the lockout began on Sept. 15: Arbitration, free agency, entry-level contracts and contract lengths. We are also going to start hearing about management rights, which the NHL has very strongly been hinting that running the game, from rules to realignment and beyond, should squarely fall on their side of the ledger is going to be a factor. As is player safety, which one would assume is very important to the 720 members of the NHLPA.
For what it’s worth, I have been told by a few people that Don Fehr is a great negotiator, and “when he gets something, he gives something back”. If that is indeed the case, the glimmer will continue to glow.