NHL, players finally agree on something

NHL, players finally agree on something
November 4, 2012, 1:00 pm
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One day after the NHL cancelled the Winter Classic and raised concerns about the entire season being lost in a bitter labor dispute, private negotiations for a new Collective Bargaining Agreement resumed on Saturday and lasted until 1 a.m. on Sunday.

NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly and NHLPA special counsel Steve Fehr have become the primary negotiating partners during the lockout, which reached Day 50 on Sunday.

Both reported progress on Sunday with a promise to meet again early this week, possibly with commissioner Gary Bettman and NHLP executive director Don Fehr joining in the discussions.

“We had a series of meetings {Saturday] and exchanged views on the most important issues separating us,” Daly said in a statement. “We plan to meet again sometime early this week.”

Steve Fehr might have issued the sweetest words in what had become a mudslinging campaign with this statement:

“I agree with what Bill said,” Fehr said. “Hopefully we can continue the dialogue, expand the group, and make steady progress.”

Fehr confirmed that the league’s 50-50 proposal to save the regular season back on Oct. 16 has been withdrawn. However, the two sides apparently are working off the finer points of that proposal.

Last week the NHL cancelled all regular season games through the end of November and on Friday the Jan. 1 Winter Classic bit the dust.

If significant progress is made this week and the two sides are able to agree on some core economic issues – most notably how to split more than $3 billion in annual revenue -- the earliest the NHL could begin a shortened season would likely be Black Friday, Nov. 23. That is the date NBC begins its national broadcast schedule with a game between the Boston Bruins and New York Rangers.

If negotiations break off or drag on well beyond mid-November, the NHL will need to consider calling off the entire season. In 2004-05 the NHL became the first of North America’s four major sports leagues to cancel an entire season.

During the 1994-95 lockout, an agreement between the league’s owners and players was reached on Jan. 11 and a 48-game season resumed on Jan. 20. In all likelihood the NHL is aiming to salvage a season similar to the 66-game slate played by the NBA last season following its lockout.

The NBA settled with the players on Thanksgiving Day and opened the season on Christmas. Bettman said the NHL would need about a week of training camp before starting the regular season, although with so many NHL players overseas, it would likely take 10 to 14 days to begin a shortened season.

How many games do you think the NHL would need to play to have a legitimate season? And what is your drop-dead date to save any kind of season? Join the conversation below: