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NHL owners, players meet late into the night again
NEW YORK (AP) - It isn’t known what progress _ if any _ has been made in the second day of marathon talks in the NHL labor dispute, but owners and players surely sense that time is working against them.
Negotiations resumed Wednesday and stretched deep into the night again, this time in fits and starts, as the league and the players’ association searched for a deal to save the hockey season.
It wasn’t until midnight Tuesday that talks wrapped up, and all signs indicated Wednesday’s discussions could go as late or later. Very little information leaked out of the meeting room, but it is believed that each side submitted proposals to the other and spent lots of time apart discussing what was offered.
Owners often retreated to their own room one floor above the location of the bargaining session and then took the elevator back down to get talks going again. Some of the together sessions lasted as short as 15 minutes.
Cautious optimism emerged Tuesday in the first round of talks that kept NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman on the outside along with union executive director Donald Fehr, while six owners and about 18 players talked inside. The good feeling carried over into Wednesday morning when various team executives said they heard good reports during an NHL board of governors meeting.
Bettman spoke briefly after that, just before negotiations started again, and the sides remained silent the rest of the talks while talks were ongoing. The reemergence of a podium with a lectern featuring the NHL shield in a media workroom, sparked some hope that some sort of announcement would soon be coming. It remained unoccupied for quite some time, however it gained instant popularity on Twitter.
Bettman declined to take any questions earlier Wednesday when he stood at that podium in a Manhattan hotel. A ray of hope that a season-saving deal could be made emerged late Tuesday night after about eight hours of bargaining.
“We are pleased with the process that is ongoing, and out of respect for that process I don’t have anything else to say,” Bettman said.
Executives scurried on New York streets and hopped into cars after the two-hour board of governors meeting, some offering an opinion on the procedings.
“We feel good about the information we got,” new Columbus Blue Jackets President John Davidson said.
Larry Tanenbaum of the Toronto Maple Leafs, one of the six owners participating in these negotiations, also painted an optimistic picture as he walked the few blocks back to the hotel hosting the meetings.
“We’re going to continue to talk up until we get a deal,” said Tanenbaum, who added there is more clarity on both sides where each group stands. “All I can say is as long as we’re talking we’re hopeful.”
If a breakthrough can be made soon, the delayed and shortened hockey season could get going quickly.
“I’ve always been hopeful there would be a season,” said Lou Lamoriello, the New Jersey Devils president and general manager. “Right now we just have to leave it in the hands of the people that are talking.”
The same negotiators participated in talks Wednesday, with minor tweaks to the large contingent of players.
By John R. Bolton
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