Hockey • Union, league need deal next week to save season.
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New York • After a long night of talks, the NHL and the union are returning to negotiations just later than expected.
The sides were supposed to meet at the league office Thursday at 10 a.m. EST. That, however, did not happen. The Players Association said it was updating its members on negotiations.
Players and union staff began arriving at NHL headquarters about 1 p.m., though union head Donald Fehr was not part of the group.
With the lockout in its 110th day, both sides understand the urgency to save a shortened season. They have moved closer to one another while swapping proposals, but key issues remain pensions and salary cap, among them.
Commissioner Gary Bettman has said that the league told the union a deal needs to be in place by next week so a 48-game season can begin Jan. 19. All games through Jan. 14 along with the All-Star game have been canceled, claiming more than 50 percent of the original schedule.
The sides met in small groups throughout the day Wednesday. They then held a full bargaining session with a federal mediator at night that lasted nearly five hours and didn't wrap up until about 1 a.m. Thursday.
The biggest detail to emerge from those talks was that Fehr is still the executive director of the players' association, which passed on its first chance to declare a disclaimer that would dissolve the union and turn it into a trade association.
Last month, players voted overwhelmingly to give its executive board the right to declare the disclaimer, but that permission expired at midnight Wednesday. The disclaimer would allow individual players to file antitrust lawsuits against the NHL. Fehr wouldn't address the issue, calling it an "internal matter."
"The word 'disclaimer' has yet to be uttered to us by the players' association," Bettman said. "It's not that it gets filed anywhere with a court or the NLRB. When you disclaim interest as a union, you notify the other side. We have not been notified and it's never been discussed, so there has been no disclaimer."