NEW YORK Point, counterpoint.
Thats what unfolded Wednesday at NHL headquarters in Manhattan as the lockout moved into its 110th day, albeit, without the union filing its threatened disclaimer of interest, although NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr would not divulge that.
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said both sides will resume talks at 10 a.m. Fehr said he expected to meet Thursday, as well, so obviously Fehr is still representing the union.
Bettman also confirmed mediator Scot Beckenbaugh was involved in Wednesday's talks, as he has been in the past.
The parties moved closer together on some issues; there is still a ways to go for an agreement to be reached, Fehr said. Well consider where we are in the morning.
Asked about the disclaimer, Fehr said the players would consider all their legal options while Bettman insisted that has never been discussed. Other reports confirmed it was not filed.
Both sides requested the mediator, Bettman said.
Theres been some progress but were still apart on a number of issues, Bettman said.
On Wednesday, the union gave a counterproposal to the leagues Tuesday night offer, during an afternoon session for examination.
When the two sides returned to the bargaining table around 8:15 p.m., the league countered the NHLPAs proposal with yet another offer. That session lasted more than four hours into Thursday morning.
Fehr caucused his contingent internally while Bettman awaited a response.
ESPN.com reported both sides were unhappy with the days proceedings because neither believed the other had moved much in negotiations.
That led to speculation that the union might go ahead with its filing of disclaimer of interest.
It had until midnight to do so and it didnt. Thats a positive and it says theres a reason to continue negotiating.
At this late juncture, with a Jan. 11 drop dead deadline looming, such an action would surely have angered the owners, jeopardized whatever traction had been gained and complicated matters.
Yet, it wouldnt necessarily have ended the talks or led to a cancellation of the season.
The disclaimer of interest would have dissolved the union, allowing players to sue the league for anti-trust.
So whats the holdup?
The funding of player pensions remains a critical issue to the players and an obstacle to the finish line for the owners, according to a source.
Specifically, its mostly about who will fund the pension and who will assume liability. Sportsnets Nick Kypreos also said this remains one of at least four sticky issues still unsettled.
There have been some dubious owners in the NHL over the past 20 years and the union is wary of what happens to player pensions if an owner goes bankrupt. Who assumes the liability if that occurs? The league? A new owner?
What if a franchise was folded? These are just some of the questions the union has raised.
Another, according to the New York Daily News, is which side makes up the difference in pension monies if the league revenues arent adequate enough. In the last CBA, teams funded three-fourths of the pension.
Bettman said the pension situation was a "very complicated issue" and would not elaborate.
Earlier Wednesday afternoon, the two sides met for about an hour.
We had a brief meeting and made some responses to the information we received, Fehr said.
The NHL people are looking at it and well hear from them when its completed.
While there is no guarantee theyll be an agreement, both sides now seem to have a sense of urgency in ending the lockout.
Indications were that by not filing, the union would not ask for an extension, but rather would simply put the disclaimer matter aside and if need be re-vote on it later, especially if a new CBA is not reached by the leagues Jan. 11 deadline.
Bettman said late Tuesday he was more focused on getting a new CBA in place by Jan. 11 than any court filing.
E-mail Tim Panaccio at firstname.lastname@example.org