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Fehr maintains NHL, players were close to deal

Published on NewsOK Modified: December 8, 2012 at 7:58 pm •  Published: December 8, 2012
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"The worst thing would be to take time off and not meet. You got to get in there. Especially as someone being in there, some talks go good and some talks go bad. But you're figuring things out, trying new ideas, what works and what doesn't work and you're moving forward."

Bettman indicated the league wouldn't consider a schedule of fewer than 48 games — the same length it had after the 1994-95 lockout — which leaves roughly a month to reach an agreement.

But Fehr said negotiations are further ahead than they were a week ago, despite talks collapsing, and that a tentative agreement on a pension plan to be funded by the players as well as discussions on money issues are largely done, with the exception of transition payments.

"We think we're either done on the dollars or very close to it," he said.

Hopes had been high Tuesday when four new owners joined the negotiation process and met well into the night with players, leading some close to the situation to believe that an agreement was at hand.

But tempers flared during another marathon session Wednesday in which the sides exchange offers and move closer together.

A comprehensive proposal was handed over to the league by Fehr on Thursday, but the league rejected the offer because the union wanted to negotiate on three issues the NHL stated had to be accepted as is. It is then that talks fell apart, and the league pulled its offer off the table.

Fehr told a room packed with CAW members that the players' association and other labor groups share many traits when it comes to negotiating. He told the meeting that league negotiators must take into account concessions made by the players in their last collective agreement as well as NHL revenue increases in recent years.

Fehr said he wanted to be the bearer of good news in his talk to the assembled union members.

"I had hoped when this invitation came, and even earlier this week, to be in a position to tell you that we had successfully concluded an agreement and the lockout was over," he said. "I can't tell you when it's going to end. I can tell you that the only way it's going to end is to keep at the process and hope that eventually we're able to find a way through the thicket of issues that are there."

The NHL is in danger of losing its second full season in seven years. The lockout that forced the cancellation of the 2004-05 season marked the first time a North American professional sports league had a full campaign wiped out by a labor dispute. The agreement that was finally reached back expired this September, leading to a lockout being imposed again on Sept. 16.