By Helene Elliott
1:28 PM EST, January 3, 2013
Negotiations between the NHL and the players association resumed Thursday at the league’s Manhattan offices following lengthy talks that went past midnight EST and involved a federal mediator for the third time.
Although it was widely assumed the league and union would reconvene at 10 a.m., NHLPA representatives had never agreed to that time. They requested time to update members before returning to the bargaining table, which happened shortlly soon after 12:30 p.m.
[Updated at 11:35 a.m.: The meeting ended around 11 a.m. PST. It's likely, but not certain, that the sides will meet again later Thursday.]
The NHLPA on Wednesday did not take the legal step of filing a disclaimer of interest and dissolving the union, a move its membership had authorized its leaders to make. The NHLPA can hold another authorization vote and can file the disclaimer in the future if it chooses. That could happen if talks don't proceed well on Thursday.
The delegation sent by the union on Thursday was smaller than the group that had participated in Wednesday’s talks. Those sessions -- an hour in the afternoon and four-plus hours in the evening -- included Scot Beckenabugh of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, who has been involved in the negotiations twice before but could not bring the sides close.
Initial reports said Donald Fehr, the NHLPA's executive director, was not part of the delegation.
Among the remaining sticking points is the NHL's proposal for a salary cap of $60 million for the 2013-14 season in order to help protect small-market teams and keep those teams' payrolls down while preventing the salary floor from rising above the level that some teams might want to spend. The NHLPA has proposed setting that figure at $65 million.
Also, the sides have not agreed on a maximum length for players’ contracts. The league has proposed a maximum of six years with an exception of seven years for teams to re-sign their own free agents, while the NHLPA favors an eight-year maximum.
In addition, the NHL's funding of players' pension plans and its liability have become contentious issues that were expected to be addressed on Thursday.
The league reportedly has proposed to allow each team to buy out two contracts before the 2013-14 season in order to get under the new salary cap. Those contracts would not count against a team's payroll but would count against players’ share of hockey-related revenues.
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman has said that a new collective bargaining agreement would have to be in place for training camps to open on Jan. 12 and a 48-game schedule to begin on Jan. 19. Otherwise, he said, he would cancel the season.
He has said he doesn't favor playing fewer than 48 games, although the possibility of each team playing as few as 28 games was floated during the NHL's last labor dispute. That disagreement ended with Bettman canceling the 2004-05 season.