NHL: Union query would spark talks

TORONTO -- The NHL and NHL Players' Association were back in the same room Monday, but it was not, however, to resume stalled labor talks.

Instead, the league and players' union had a previously scheduled meeting dealing with hashing out last season's hockey-related revenue numbers.

When they came out of the four-hour meeting Monday, there still wasn't any official plan to resume bargaining talks.

"No bargaining scheduled, but we have kept in close contact," NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly told a handful of media outside the league's Toronto offices. "It's fair to say both sides are working, but they're working internally right now."

Daly said he and NHL commissioner Gary Bettman were scheduled to attend a players' alumni dinner in Toronto later Monday night and that there was the expectation of touching base there with NHLPA executive director Don Fehr and his brother, NHLPA counsel Steve Fehr.

"Hopefully, we'll be able to talk about that a little bit,'' Daly said.

Asked whether he felt bargaining talks would resume by the end of the week, Daly responded: "I hope so.''

The two sides haven't officially met since Sept. 12 in New York when the NHLPA tabled a new proposal and the league responded the same day with a counterproposal, neither of which gained any traction with either side. The lockout began Sept. 15 at midnight.

"Obviously, we've got to talk before you can get a deal, so I think it's important to get the talks going again,'' Daly said. "But you also have to have something to say. I think it's fair to say we feel like we need to hear from the players' association in a meaningful way because I don't think that they've really moved off their initial proposal, which was made more than a month ago now."

Neither Bettman nor Don Fehr attended Monday's meeting. Daly and Steve Fehr were the two most senior negotiators in the meeting. Steve Fehr left the meeting while politely declining to address the media.

Daly was asked how these talks compared to 2004-05, when an entire season was wiped out by the last lockout.

"I'd like to think it's light-years," Daly said. "We've been talking within the same framework, we've had a lot of discussions about a lot of ground in a lot of the other areas we need to, but obviously we still have a financial divide we have to find out how to bridge."

Last time around, the two sides went close to three months without negotiating. The hope is that this won't happen again.

"I hope not,'' Daly said. "It's true, we haven't found ourselves in that situation. We certainly haven't gotten frustrated with the process to the point where we're not meeting just not to meet. I think we're not meeting to come up with new ideas."

Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews, however, doesn't seem quite as optimistic. For the second time in less than a week, Toews had harsh words for the leadership of the NHL and its team owners.

"It's them just trying to show everyone that they're the owners of the league and they can do whatever they want," Toews told reporters Monday at an informal players' workout. "If they want to hurt their own game and drive it into the ground that's what they'll do. If it comes down to that it doesn't matter as long as they get what they want."

Last week Toews was critical of Bettman, noting the "repetitiveness" of the situation and calling the league "stubborn."

The NHL has canceled preseason games up to Sept. 30 and may soon have to cancel more.

"Obviously, we're going to have to look as the week goes along as to where we are on the calendar and where we are in bargaining and what that means logistically in terms of concluding a deal and getting back on the ice,'' Daly said. "We'll make announcements when we need to make announcements."

The regular season is scheduled to begin Oct. 11.

"We're 100 percent focused on not missing any regular-season games, and hopefully we can achieve that objective,'' Daly said.

Said Toews: "We're a week into it already and a lot of people are starting to get antsy, especially fans. It's not really fair to them either."

Information from ESPNChicago.com's Jesse Rogers was used in this report.