NEW YORK (AP) — Both sides in the NHL labor fight seem willing to talk. The problem is neither group likes what is being said at the other end of the table.
Negotiations restarted Sunday following a one-day break, but they were over about 90 minutes after they began. And what is worse, there is no clear plan for them to get going again.
Only the hot-button issue of player-contract terms was on the agenda Sunday. The players' side felt NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman was saying that there was no room for bargaining. Once the union heard that, it saw no reason to keep talking.
"The owners made it clear there is no give with respect to their proposals unless the players are willing to take them — this is my phrase, not theirs — down to the comma, then there is nothing to do, that we're past the point of give and take," players' association executive director Donald Fehr said.
The league countered the players' association assessment of the situation, but its view wasn't enough to keep the conversation going. There is still a chance there will be more negotiations on Monday in Toronto, where leaders on both sides will be for Hockey Hall Of Fame inductions, but that wasn't going to be determined until they touch base again.
NHL owners want to limit contracts to five years, make rules to prohibit back-diving contracts the league feels circumvent the salary cap, keep players ineligible for unrestricted free agency until they are 28 or have eight years of professional service time, cut entry-level deals to two years, and make salary arbitration after five years.
Deputy commissioner Bill Daly said Sunday that owners have conveyed the message to him that these issues are of vital importance in a new deal. While there could be room to negotiate within the framework, the bottom line remains the same.
"It's fair to say, while there was a candid discussion on those issues, and certainly each side explained their positions to the other, I don't think there was any progress on those issues," Daly said. "I would've hoped that during the course of the past week they would've shown some movement on those issues toward us, knowing what our fundamental concerns are. The message we basically got this week was, 'We know what your contracting proposals are, we're not prepared to agree to them.'
"They are not issues that can be traded off. They are all important issues to us. That doesn't mean you can't talk about them and shake them. There is flexibility around the issues we need to achieve, but they are not issues that we can walk away from."