NHL, union resume talks

NEW YORK -- For the first time since talks resumed earlier this week, the NHL and NHL Players' Association broke their silence Thursday. And although neither side offered much insight into the state of negotiations, it appears progress has been made.

The sides met for more than five hours on Thursday and resumed meeting again Friday at 10 a.m. NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr also said the union would be willing to meet this weekend, if necessary. According to the NHLPA,
Chris Campoli, Mathieu Darche, Ron Hainsey, George Parros and Kevin Westgarth were in New York Friday for the meetings.

A union spokesman said there will be multiple meetings between the sides Friday to discuss collective bargaining matters.

A source confirmed to ESPNNewYork.com that the union offered two proposals Wednesday, one on revenue sharing and another on the "make-whole" concept to honor existing player contracts.

Additionally, a source told ESPN.com's Pierre LeBrun the union's "make-whole"
proposal includes a phase-in element that would see the players' share drop to 50-50 of revenue by Year 3 based on "regular" growth.

The NHL responded to the proposals Thursday, the source said, although it's not immediately clear how receptive it was to the union's ideas, if at all.

After lengthy sessions Tuesday and Wednesday and the two proposals that the union submitted, there was a mounting sense that Thursday was a make-or-break point of negotiations.

"I'm not going to characterize it except to say as I have before that it's always better when you're meeting than when you're not," Fehr said of the talks.

Commissioner Gary Bettman was similarly tight-lipped. When asked about progress, he said it was "tough to handicap."

"I don't know what Don said, but the fact is, we have a lot of work to do and we're working hard," Bettman said.

Both sides have remained relatively quiet in recent days as talks appeared to have intensified. The league even asked to meet at a private location to avoid any interference. The union honored that request, although reporters discovered the meeting place -- midtown Manhattan law firm Proskauer Rose, the same firm that represents the NHL -- and camped outside the office Thursday.

Why did the league want to limit media exposure on the discussions?

"Because we have work to do and my hope is that we can achieve the goal of getting a long-term, fair agreement in place as quickly as possible so we can play hockey," Bettman said.

Although both Fehr and Bettman declined to characterize or divulge any details of the negotiations, there has been at least some progress in the form of ideas swapped.

When asked whether Thursday's session was viewed as a juncture of critical importance, Bettman said, "Every day that passes, I think is critical, for the game and for our fans."

According to the NHLPA, seven players attended Thursday's session: David Backes, Chris Campoli, Mathieu Darche, Ron Hainsey, Johan Hedberg, Manny Malhotra and Kevin Westgarth.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.