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Players, owners make progress in NHL talks, but sides caution there's still a lot of work to be done

It appears the NHL and its players’ association may have found a negotiating tactic that actually works.

With union counsel Steve Fehr calling it the best day they’ve had so far, six owners and 18 players, including Buffalo Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller, met twice Tuesday in New York. The sides made progress toward a long-awaited collective bargaining agreement, but they cautioned there’s a lot of work to be done before the lockout can end.

The negotiators, who wrapped up at midnight, will gather again this morning prior to an NHL board of governors meeting.

“I think everybody wants to get a deal done, so I think that's encouraging,” NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly told reporters during a joint news conference with Fehr.

Tuesday’s meetings were different in that the leaders of the parties, Commissioner Gary Bettman and NHLPA Executive Director Donald Fehr, were on the sidelines while new faces participated.

Four owners – Pittsburgh’s Ronald Burkle, Winnipeg’s Mark Chipman, Toronto’s Larry Tanenbaum and Tampa Bay’s Jeffery Vinik – sat down for the first time, joining regular league negotiators Jeremy Jacobs of Boston and Murray Edwards of Calgary.

The union elected to use all 18 players who traveled to New York after initially being expected to counter with six. Among those sitting alongside Miller were Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby, Phoenix’s Shane Doan, Chicago’s Jonathan Toews, Tampa Bay’s Martin St. Louis and the New York Rangers’ Brad Richards.

The sides gathered at 2 p.m. and met for 5½ hours before breaking for dinner. They reconvened shortly after 10 p.m. for a two-hour session.

Though details were kept quiet, multiple reports said the Penguins’ Burkle played an integral role during the meetings, which featured full-party discussions and smaller gatherings.

Burkle, whose team is a Stanley Cup contender with Crosby as its captain, would likely push for a season to be played. It would seem Vinik, who oversees an aging Tampa squad featuring St. Louis, and Chipman, whose team has played just one season in Winnipeg, also would prefer seeing the puck drop.

Jacobs, the Buffalo native who owns Delaware North Cos., has repeatedly been portrayed as a hard-liner who has pushed for a knockout of the players’ association.

Jacobs is also the chairman of the board of governors, which will meet at 11 this morning. The Sabres are expected to take three spots at the table. Owner Terry Pegula, President Ted Black and General Manager Darcy Regier will take attend the summit.

Bettman is scheduled to hold a 1 p.m. news conference following the board meeting.

The lockout has been in effect since Sept. 16 and has wiped out all games through Dec. 14. More cancellations are expected this week if the sides fail to complete a CBA.

---John Vogl

Eighteen players arrive in New York, NHLPA opts to send all (including Miller) into meeting with owners

Ryan Miller didn't need to worry about getting picked for today's meeting with the NHL. The players' association is sending in everyone.

Eighteen players, including the Sabres' goaltender, have traveled to New York for resumption of negotiations between the league and the NHLPA. Six owners will be at the table, and it was believed they'd be joined by a half-dozen players. The union announced this afternoon that all 18 who traveled will attend the meeting, which is scheduled to begin at 2 p.m.

The players who will be in the negotiations are: Craig Adams, David Backes, Michael Cammalleri, Sidney Crosby, B.J. Crombeen, Mathieu Darche, Shane Doan, Ron Hainsey, Shawn Horcoff, Jamal Mayers, Manny Malhotra, Andy McDonald, Miller, George Parros, Brad Richards, Martin St. Louis, Jonathan Toews and Kevin Westgarth.

Owners Ronald Burkle of the Pittsburgh Penguins, Mark Chipman of the Winnipeg Jets, Jeffery Vinik of the Tampa Bay Lightning and Larry Tanenbaum of the Toronto Maple Leafs will join regular league negotiators Jeremy Jacobs of the Boston Bruins and Murray Edwards of the Calgary Flames at the table.

---John Vogl

Sabres' Miller: 'I can't make sense of what the owners truly need because they want everything'

Ryan Miller hopes he gets a chance to talk to six NHL owners Tuesday. It might give him a better idea of how the lockout will finally end.

“I can't make sense of what the owners truly need because they want everything,” the Buffalo Sabres’ goaltender wrote today during an exchange of text messages. “That is why it seems like the finish line is moving.”

Miller is among a large group of players who will gather Tuesday in New York City when negotiations between the league and the NHL Players’ Association resume. In a new dynamic, six owners and Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly will meet with six players and union special counsel Steve Fehr. The leaders of the respective sides, Commissioner Gary Bettman and NHLPA Executive Director Donald Fehr, will not take part.

“I don't entirely agree with leaving the heads of negotiation out of this because they are paid to make a deal,” Miller wrote. “But if it gets more owners involved then so be it.”

Owners Ronald Burkle of the Pittsburgh Penguins, Mark Chipman of the Winnipeg Jets, Jeffery Vinik of the Tampa Bay Lightning and Larry Tanenbaum of the Toronto Maple Leafs will join regular league negotiators Jeremy Jacobs of the Boston Bruins and Murray Edwards of the Calgary Flames at the table. The NHLPA has not announced which players will take part in talks and probably will not do so until Tuesday.

“A lot of guys want the opportunity,” Miller wrote. “I hope we all get a better feel of what each side truly needs. On our side anyone can talk to the media or attend meetings, so I am hopeful that having more owners join the conversation we can get somewhere and break up this monopoly 4-5 owners have had on deal making.

“I am really disappointed that no moderate owners have stopped the madness. Hopefully they will after the board of governors convene.”

This figures to be a big week for the labor stalemate. In addition to Tuesday’s gathering, the NHL’s board of governors meets Wednesday. Also, more games are expected to be canceled Friday if a collective bargaining agreement is not in place.

“There has been a deal available for months,” Miller wrote. “We all expected things to fall into a negotiation after reaching 50/50 [in regards to splitting revenue] but it hasn't. The owners want too much from us and we have to make a stand. We appreciate the chance to play in the NHL but we have to protect our players.”

The sides have gotten closer in terms of finances, but contracting rights have become a major roadblock. The NHL’s most recent proposals would increase the age for free agency, limit contract lengths and control how much salaries fluctuate from year to year.

“I am confused by the hard line on contracting,” Miller wrote. “My only guess is Gary wants to limit General Managers so he won't have anymore loophole type surprises in this CBA. I understand that position to the extent you don't want contracts to cripple a team, but they are really taking away team building as a skill. Skilled GMs will have to identify how to balance a budget instead of building a well balanced winner.

“What I haven't heard anyone talking about is the fact that under the NHL proposal the NHL becomes a 2 tier salary league. The middle class is gone and that means shorter careers and in my opinion mediocre hockey.”

Last month, Miller told the Globe and Mail the lockout has been more about “brand suicide” than negotiating. He figures the NHL believes everyone will just forget about the lockout once games resume.

“I think they are counting on people to have short memories,” Miller wrote. “Just like politicians who flip-flop on an issue, the owners believe the fans will return and be caught up in hockey... Everything forgiven or at least forgotten once pucks drop."

---John Vogl

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John Vogl

John Vogl

John Vogl has been covering the Sabres since 2002-03, an era that has included playoff runs, last-place finishes and three ownership changes. The award-winning writer is the Buffalo chapter chairman for the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association.

@BuffNewsVogl |

About Sabres Edge

Mike Harrington

Mike Harrington

Mike Harrington, a Canisius College graduate who began his career as a News reporter in 1987, has been covering the Buffalo Sabres since 2007. He is a member of the Professional Hockey Writers' Association and can vouch that exposed flesh freezes instantly when walking in downtown Winnipeg in January.

@BNHarrington |

Amy Moritz

Amy Moritz

Amy Moritz, a native of Lockport, has a bachelor’s degree in journalism/mass communication from St. Bonaventure University and a master’s degree in humanities from the University at Buffalo. An endurance athlete, she has completed several triathlons, half marathons and marathons.

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