NHL

Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

'Nothing new to report' yet

New mediation effort tries to make a deal

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The answer was still "no" on Wednesday and the NHL lockout continues into its 89th day today.

The NHL and NHL Players' Association met in New Jersey via Scot L. Beckenbaugh and John Sweeney from the U.S. Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service. The sides weren't in the same room together.

The league said later in the day it held firm on its positions from last week when negotiations in New York broke down, resulting in high emotion and frustration on both sides.

The NHL wanted the players to agree to a new 10-year collective bargaining agreement, maximum player contracts of five years with a five per cent variance in any year and other compliance issues.

In return, the league had said it was willing to fatten the "make-whole" payments to players outside the system to $300 million to ensure existing contract values would be honoured in full in the future.

When the NHLPA didn't agree to those terms and instead tabled a counterproposal, the NHL rejected it and pulled all its proposals off the table.

That's the opposite of progress, though many believe the league may again offer those proposals for a final deal.

When Wednesday's session ended, NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly made the following statement: "We met for about six-and-a-half hours today with the assistance of federal mediator Scot Beckenbaugh. The parties were never actually in the same room together. We did several different caucus meeting rooms. There is nothing new to report.

"We don't have a conclusion to the process. The players are doing something tonight and they are going to get back to mediator Beckenbaugh tonight and he will get back to us tonight."

Daly, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and several officials from the league side were on hand, but no owners attended.

In addition to the union leadership, 13 players attended the session, including Winnipeg Jets defenceman Ron Hainsey.

Hainsey told the Free Press late Wednesday there was "no progress to report."

Centre Brendan Morrison said at the end of the day that he hadn't thought the issues were as big as the ones that cost the league an entire season in 2004-05.

"Apparently I was wrong," he told the Associated Press.

While the sides were meeting in their ill-fated session in New York last week, the players had pushed for the inclusion of mediators again. A session with them earlier in the impasse yielded nothing.

Beckenbaugh and Sweeney had previous commitments until the middle of this week before being able to return to try to assist the process.

NHL players have been locked out since Sept. 15. All regular-season games through Dec. 30 have been cancelled.

Given last week's statement by Bettman that he can't contemplate any shortened season of fewer than 48 games, the window is closing fast on the possibility of any NHL action for 2012-13.

tim.campbell@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 13, 2012 D2

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