Union set to respond Wednesday to latest NHL offer

NEW YORK (AP) - The NHL has kicked the ball back to the players’ association in the form of another counteroffer as the sides play pingpong in the search for labor peace.

The proposal was presented Tuesday night in a 30-minute meeting that was long delayed as the league worked on its response to the union’s counteroffer Monday. The NHL started this latest round of talks with a contract offer late last week.

That spurred negotiations to resume Monday after the sides spent nearly three weeks apart. They were back together throughout Tuesday in smaller groups before the main negotiating teams met briefly at night when the NHL made its new offer.

“They did make a comprehensive response to what we gave them,” players’ association executive director Donald Fehr said. “We asked a couple of questions. Now what we have to do is go through the document, try to make some sense out of it, compare it and see what the appropriate thing is to do next.”

After reviewing the document later Tuesday night, Fehr planned to get back in touch with the NHL on Wednesday morning and expected to meet with the league for a third straight day.

“I am reasonably certain of it,” Fehr said.

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman declined to provide details of the league’s latest offer, but said it addressed specific areas the union requested.

“There were certain things that the players’ association asked for that we agreed to, there were some things that we moved in their direction, and there were other things that we said no,” he said. “That’s part of the process.”

But it’s a process that has limited time to be completed. Bettman said Monday the NHL has told the union a deal needs to be in place by Jan. 11 so a 48-game season can begin eight days later.

It is unclear how many issues still need to be resolved and how far apart the sides are in key areas.

“Nobody is counting,” Bettman said. “We’re not trying to keep score, we’re trying to get an agreement.”

Both sides agreed that it is a positive sign they are getting into a rhythm of talking and meeting and exchanging ideas on a regular basis.

“It is better to be meeting than not. I am not saying anything more about it,” Fehr said.

The only way to bridge the gaps to a deal that would save the season is to keep working at it together.

“The fact that we’re involved in a continuous process is something that I am glad to see, but we’re clearly not done yet,” Bettman said. “It’s up to the players’ association to come back to us now in response to what they have been given this evening.”

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