NEW YORK — NHL owners and players were meeting Tuesday afternoon at a Times Square hotel in an unusual session aimed at kick-starting stalled labor talks.
A group of about a half-dozen owners and 18 players got together without two key figures — Commissioner Gary Bettman and NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr. The hope is some candid, face-to-face talks will result in a breakthrough.
If the hockey season is going to be saved, a deal needs to be struck soon.
Tuesday is the 80th day of the lockout. All games through Dec. 14 have already been wiped off the schedule, along with the outdoor Winter Classic on New Year’s Day and All-Star Weekend that was slated for January in Columbus, Ohio.
THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.
NHL owners and players have met in big groups. They’ve held smaller sessions. They’re tried federal mediators.
Nothing has worked, so they’re going to try something different.
With the lockout lingering into another week, the NHL labor talks are set to resume Tuesday with six owners and six players scheduled to meet while a couple of key figures remain on the sidelines of the negotiations.
Seeking a breakthrough on the financial issues and player contracting disputes that have stymied the talks at every turn, the league and union completed the details for the unusual bargaining session over the weekend. The meeting will include the small group of owners and players, staff members and counsel on each side, but Commissioner Gary Bettman and NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr will not be present.
The NHL announced Sunday that owners Ron Burkle (Pittsburgh Penguins), Mark Chipman (Winnipeg Jets), Murray Edwards (Calgary Flames), Jeremy Jacobs (Boston Bruins), Larry Tanenbaum (Toronto Maple Leafs) and Jeff Vinik (Tampa Bay Lightning) will take part in the talks for the league.
The union will announce its representatives on Tuesday. The Canadian Press News Agency reported Monday that Penguins star Sidney Crosby, Sabres goalie Ryan Miller and Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews are among the players expected to be in New York and could be selected for the meeting.
After a few days of wrangling, following the conclusion of talks between the sides and a pair of federal mediators, the NHL and the union agreed on parameters for talks that will keep the respective leaders on the outside.
Bettman proposed such a meeting on Wednesday when talks broke down and the mediators left the process. Originally, the thought was that only owners and players would get together for the next round of discussions, but the roster was expanded Sunday to include staff members and counsel on each side.
“Ultimately, we are just trying to find some meeting format that can gain some traction,” deputy commissioner Bill Daly said.
All games through Dec. 14 have already been wiped off the schedule, along with the outdoor Winter Classic on New Year’s Day and All-Star Weekend that was slated for January in Columbus, Ohio.
The lockout reached its 79th day on Monday, and at best, there will only be a shortened season if there is any hockey at all.
The union has allowed any players who wanted to attend previous bargaining sessions to come, but the NHL has limited the owners who could take part.
“The NHLPA has agreed to a meeting on Tuesday in New York that should facilitate dialogue between players and owners,” Fehr said Sunday in a statement. “There will be owners attending this meeting who have not previously done so, which is encouraging and which we welcome. We hope that this meeting will be constructive and lead to a dialogue that will help us find a way to reach an agreement.”
Jacobs, considered one of the hardline owners, and Edwards are the only members of the NHL’s group of six to have taken part in previous negotiations.