For the first time since talks resumed earlier this week, the NHL and NHLPA broke their silence, although neither side offered much insight into the state of negotiations.
The two sides met for over five hours -- their third consecutive day of bargaining -- and will meet again Friday. NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr also indicated that the union would be willing to meet over the weekend if necessary.
"I'm not going to characterize it except to say as I have before that it's always better when you're meeting than when you're not," Fehr said.
Bettman was similarly tight-lipped and, when asked about progress, said it was "tough to handicap."
"I don't know what Don said, but the fact is, we have a lot of work to do and we're working hard.
Both sides have remained relatively quiet in recent days as talks appeared to have intensified. The league even asked to meet at a private, undisclosed location to avoid any interference. The union honored that request although reporters discovered the meeting place -- midtown Manhattan law firm Proskauer Rose, the same firm that represents the National Hockey League -- and camped outside the office Thursday.
Why did the league want to limit media exposure on the discussions?
"Because we have work to do and my hope is that we can achieve the goal of getting a long-term, fair agreement in place as quickly as possible so we can play hockey," NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said.
Although both Fehr and Bettman declined to characterize negotiations or divulge any details of the contents of the discussions, there has been at least some progress in the form of ideas swapped.
A source confirmed to ESPNNewYork.com that the union offered up two proposals on Wednesday, one on revenue-sharing and another on the "make whole" concept to honor existing player contracts. Additionally, a source told ESPN.com's Pierre LeBrun that the union's "make-whole" proposal includes a phase-in element that would see the players' share drop to 50-50 of revenue by Year 3 based on "regular" growth.
The NHL did respond to the proposals, the source said, although it is not immediately clear how receptive they were to the union's ideas, if at all.
After two lengthy sessions Tuesday and Wednesday and the tandem of proposals submitted by the union, there was a mounting sense of gravity Thursday as a "make or break" point of negotiations.
When asked about whether Thursday's session was viewed as a juncture of critical importance, Bettman responded:
"Every day that passes, I think is critical, for the game and for our fans."
According to the NHLPA, seven players are attending Thursday's session: David Backes, Chris Campoli, Mathieu Darche, Ron Hainsey, Johan Hedberg, Manny Malhotra and Kevin Westgarth.