Bettman suggests both sides take break in NHL talks
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman speaks to reporters following labor talks in New York, Friday, Nov. 9, 2012. (AP / Louis Lanzano)
Chris Johnston, The Canadian Press
Published Thursday, November 15, 2012 4:57PM EST
Last Updated Thursday, November 15, 2012 9:42PM EST
TORONTO -- With another chunk of the NHL schedule in danger of being cancelled, about the only thing the league and NHL Players' Association are talking about is taking a break.
Gary Bettman contacted Donald Fehr on Wednesday and suggested the sides place a two-week moratorium on negotiations, two sources confirmed to The Canadian Press on Thursday night.
A response has yet to be given. Fehr, the NHLPA's executive director, told the NHL commissioner he wanted to take the offer to his membership before providing an answer.
The requested break comes after talks fell silent following six consecutive days of meetings between the sides last week in New York. It was clear by the end of that run that pessimism and some bad feelings had made their way into the proceedings.
The league is close to making another round of game cancellations, prompting some to suggest the season was in danger. Asked about that possibility on Thursday morning, deputy commissioner Bill Daly replied: "I hope not."
"But I'm more discouraged now than I have been at any point in the process," Daly added.
The NHL is expected to start wiping games beyond Nov. 30 off the schedule early next week. There had previously been hope for a shortened 68-game season starting Dec. 1, but that now appears to be gone.
In total, the lockout has already forced the cancellation of 327 games, including the Winter Classic between the Maple Leafs and Red Wings at Michigan Stadium. The league's other big mid-season event -- the Jan. 27 all-star game at Nationwide Arena in Columbus -- is also expected to be formally cancelled in the near future.
Earlier this week, NHLPA special counsel Steve Fehr indicated that he thought a new CBA could be completed quickly once a breakthrough was made in negotiations.
"One thing Bill Daly and I agree upon is that when the moment is right the deal could be done very quickly," Fehr said Monday. "One days, three days or whatever."
The right moment doesn't appear to be forthcoming. Fehr acknowledged that the union and league remained split on three major issues: the division of money, player contract rights and who pays for the damage caused by the lockout.
The lack of progress in talks has started raising fears that the NHL might lose another year to a labour dispute. Even though the 2004-05 season was cancelled by commissioner Gary Bettman on Feb. 16, it's believed the league wouldn't put the decision off that long if the 2012-13 season is to meet the same fate.
A deal that saved a 48-game season after the 1994-95 lockout was signed on Jan. 11.