NATIONAL Hockey League Players Association negotiating committee member Ron Hainsey, the Winnipeg Jets defenceman, wants the league and its owners to stop dragging their heels.
Hainsey said Thursday that the NHLPA is ready and willing to meet for negotiations to try to find a resolution to the current labour impasse that hits Day 104 today.
He has even suggested the sides return to the format from early December that saw players, including Hainsey, talking face-to-face with owners, including Jets co-owner and governor Mark Chipman.
Asked if he’s reached out with that request to the league, Hainsey said: "You’d have to assume they saw that. It was pretty widely circulated last week. "The caveat was that Don (Fehr, NHLPA executive director) and Gary (Bettman, NHL commissioner) would join this time and hopefully we’d quickly come to a resolution. "But it looks like they’re not interested. But what you’re asking is accurate, they we’re ready to meet."
Hainsey said he realizes there’s an appearance that he’s changing his tune from early December, when he was part of the players-owners sessions that went off track after two days.
"I think it’s been made public that I delivered the message that we weren’t prepared to go forward without our staff," he said. "So they had no real interest in continuing negotiations.
"The players aren’t sure how to complete a multi-billion-dollar deal without our staff."
The NHL has said it also is prepared to meet but that it wants to do so only if it can hear something new from the union, or agreement on the three "must-haves" the owners asked for in early December.
"In mediation the next week, we were told their offer was what it was," Hainsey said. "If we cared to nibble at one small piece, then they would listen but outside of that their position was take it or leave it.
"And word out there continues to be portrayed like this, that if we’re waiting for them (to alter their offer) we’ll be waiting forever because Don changed the rules in December, whatever that means."
NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said Thursday that there have been no new developments and that no meetings with the NHLPA had been scheduled.
NHL games have been canceled through Jan. 14 and nobody doubts that time is running short.
"I think it’s safe to assume mid-January is a critical time," Daly told the Free Press. "I’m not going to suggest January 14 is a deadline, though."
Just more than a week ago, Daly suggested his best guess for the future was that a deal gets done somehow.
Hainsey ventured a similar thought on Thursday.
"I have to believe we get something done," the Jets defenceman said. "I believe the cost of this is way too much."