While nearly everyone in the NHL was quiet, including Commissioner Gary Bettman, a select group of players and owners began talking Wednesday afternoon and continued well into Thursday morning. They formally exchanged ideas for a new collective bargaining agreement.
It’s unclear how much progress they made.
“We had a series of meetings today, very candid discussion, and we plan on meeting again tomorrow,” Winnipeg’s Ron Hainsey said to reporters in New York just before 1 a.m. Thursday.
About a half-hour later, NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly told reporters that after the candid dialogue some critical issues still remained.
"We are pleased with the process that is ongoing," Bettman said during an afternoon news conference that lasted 24 seconds. “Out of respect for that process I don't have anything else to say."
Six owners and 19 players spoke to each other and internally from afternoon till night till morning, breaking for dinner as speculation swirled about their conferences.
"We're going to continue to talk up until we get a deal," Toronto owner Larry Tanenbaum, who was one of the half-dozen league representatives, told reporters following a midday board of governors meeting. “All I can say is as long as we're talking we're hopeful."
The negotiating group, which included Buffalo Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller, talked for 7½ hours Tuesday but did not formally make offers. That changed Wednesday.
The NHL Players’ Association made a proposal in the afternoon, according to multiple reports. The league countered early in the evening, according to ESPN.com.
At about 8:45 p.m., following their two-hour dinner break, the owners returned to the meeting room. They stayed for less than 15 minutes and departed for another internal discussion, according to reports. They returned 15 minutes later.
The owners departed again at 10 p.m., rejoined the players an hour later and left again at 11:30 p.m. Meetings then continued well into the morning with smaller groups, reports said.
While they talked, reporters noticed an NHL lectern being set up for a news conference.
The suspense as to why added to the intensity of the day. A new CBA needs to be reached by Friday or more games are expected to be canceled. The schedule has already been wiped out through Dec. 14.
While Miller took part in negotiations, Sabres owner Terry Pegula, President Ted Black and General Manager Darcy Regier attended the board of governors meeting. Bettman described the two-hour session as “basically an update.”
"We feel good about the information we got," Columbus Blue Jackets President John Davidson told reporters.
Black, via email, declined comment. The NHL has threatened substantial fines for team employees who talk about the lockout.
It was unclear whether the meetings would extend into today, but the schedule is now open.
The sides were supposed to appear in front of the Quebec Labour Relations Board today and Friday, but because of the increased talks in New York they agreed to postpone the hearing. The NHLPA, led by members of the Montreal Canadiens, filed suit with the labor board in September to have the lockout declared illegal in the province.