NHL, NHLPA begin formal labor talks

With the NHLPA yet to receive all the financial information requested from the league and executive director Donald Fehr still in Europe to brief players overseas on the proceedings, the two sides continued to tackle the secondary, non-core economic issues during Day 1 of labor negotiations this week.

The two sides, which discussed player health and safety as well as legal issues on Tuesday, are expected to address economic issues on both Thursday and Friday.

The NHLPA is expected to respond to the league's first proposal -- submitted July 13 -- at some point this week, although it may not be delivered as a formal counter-proposal.

"Closer, absolutely. We're closer, but we still don't have a timeframe," said NHLPA's Mathieu Schneider, special assistant to Fehr.

Schneider said that the union is still in the process of receiving the necessary financial information from the league that was requested last week.

Although the two sides forged "common ground" on the non-core economic issues that dominated discussions Tuesday, there is believed to be a significant chasm with regards to the financial components of the league's initial proposal.

Among the most pressing issues are: salary givebacks, a decreased share and re-definition of hockey-related revenue, as well as a revenue-sharing system that is not regarded to be significantly different from the one currently in place.

"Those are certainly critical issues we'd like to address, I'd assume, sure " said NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly, who added the league is looking forward to receiving word on those issues from the NHLPA soon.

With the current collective bargaining agreement set to expire in five weeks on September 15, Daly was asked whether he feared a lockout:

"We're working hard to avoid a work stoppage," he said.

Daly said he has been heartened by the tone of negotiations as compared to that of 2004, when the NHL lost the entire season due to a lockout.

"Look I'm sure it's going to go right down to the wire, as these things necessarily do, but I think both sides are committed to work through the issues," he said. "I've said this before and I believe it, I feel like we're in a real negotiation process. I'm not sure I always felt that way in 2004, so I would distinguish this summer from that summer."

Fehr, who flew to Europe last week to brief NHL players overseas, continued his meetings Tuesday in Barcelona, Spain. He is expected to return to the U.S. by Thursday or Friday, when economic discussions resume.