NEW YORK—The conversation went something like this.
“Let’s leave,” said Boston Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs, turning to NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly.
“It’s up to you,” replied Daly.
At that point during the talks between the NHL and NHL Players’ Association on Wednesday, a day that began as a continuation of the momentum generated on Tuesday, both sides were at the precipice, and the 2012-13 season was in jeopardy. Earlier, Buffalo Sabres goalie Ryan Miller had angrily vented when the owners said they were disappointed with the players’ responses to an earlier offer and threatened to pull everything off the table.
But with Jacobs poised to abandon the talks, other owners spoke up, and then both sides dramatically backed away from the precipice. When talks ended close to 1 a.m. Thursday morning after more than eight hours of talks without NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and union executive director Don Fehr, it certainly seemed from the outside they were getting closer and closer to a deal to end this ugly lockout.
“We had a series of candid discussions,” said player rep Ron Hainsey, summing up the union’s position before announcing the two sides would continue talks later on Thursday afternoon.
Larry Tanenbaum, chairman of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, said simply: “We are still talking.”
How close are they heading into a third day of bargaining? Well, according to a report by Sportsnet.ca writer Michael Grange, the league has raised the amount of “make whole” money it is will to throw in the pot to $300 million from $211 million, essentially meeting the players halfway as the two sides try to develop a formula that will transition both to a 50-50 split on revenue.
The six owners in the meeting agreed to accept the NHLPA’s position to keep rules on free agency and arbitration rights the same as they were in the old CBA. The league remained steadfast on a five-year contract limit with no more than a 5 per cent variance in any year, but did suggest a free agent re-signing with his old team could sign for as long as seven years.
Also, the owners want a 10-year collective bargaining agreement, according to the Sportsnet.ca report. The players want a much shorter term.
“There are critical open issues between the two parties,” said Daly after the meetings ended.