NHL, NHLPA resume labor talks

NEW YORK -- Although relations between the NHL and NHLPA seem to have grown increasingly contentious in the week leading up to the lockout, the two sides resumed negotiations Wednesday as the expiration of the collective bargaining agreement looms on Saturday.

Wednesday's meeting is expected to be informal, similar to last Friday, when NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and deputy commissioner Bill Daly sat down with NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr and his brother, Steve.

It is not clear whether the union, which held a conference call with players Wednesday, will submit an offer.

The two sides have not had formal discussions since talks broke down on Aug. 31. At that time, the NHL was seeking a comprehensive counter-proposal from the union to its second offer. Bettman indicated the NHL was not pleased with the response they received.

Wednesday's discussions will be held in advance of the union's player meetings, which are scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday in Manhattan. The NHL will be meeting as well, with the Board of Governors meeting slated to convene Thursday in New York.

Given the NHL's clear stance on a lockout -- Bettman intends to lock the players out if a new deal isn't reached when the current CBA expires on Sept. 15 -- there is little time remaining for the two sides to come to an agreement.

The union and league still have a significant bridge to gap on the key economic concepts of a new deal. While the players want to avoid any immediate salary reduction -- either via rollbacks or escrow -- the league wants the players to take a reduced share of revenue.

The two sides, particularly Daly and Steve Fehr, have communicated consistently even in the absence of formal negotiations. But frustrations bubbled over Tuesday when the union turned to Canadian provincial law to challenge the lockout.

The NHLPA, through a Montreal-based lawyer, issued a cease-and-desist letter to the Montreal Canadiens and the NHL, and appealed to the Quebec Labour Relations Board on behalf of their case as well. Quebec does not recognize the NHLPA as a certified union, which means a lockout by an employer cannot be lawfully imposed, they

A hearing on the NHLPA's application with the Quebec Labour Relations Board to declare a lockout illegal in the province is scheduled for Friday morning in Montreal.

The union also challenged the league's request to the Alberta Labour Relations Board for a board-supervised lockout vote. The ALBLRB was slated to hold a hearing in front of a three-person panel Tuesday morning, but it was canceled when the NHL withdrew its application late Tuesday.