NEW YORK (AP) — Progress was finally made during negotiations between the NHL and the players' association, but neither side came close to celebrating.
With core economic issues far away from the bargaining table on Friday, the league and union got back to talking in a pair of sessions that totaled about five hours and included a private meeting between Commissioner Gary Bettman and NHLPA Executive Director Donald Fehr.
Secondary issues were discussed, and some agreements were made, but none regarding the most contentious of topics that have left NHL players still locked out two weeks before the regular season is supposed to begin.
"I wish we had spent today on what we consider to be the more meaningful issues, but it is what it is," NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said. "We really need to hear from the players' association on those. We need some kind of sign that they are prepared to compromise their economic position because we haven't had that since Aug. 14.
"We'll see if we get there."
At least they got back to talking — which hadn't happened since a few days before the NHL locked out its players on Sept. 16.
"It was a good day," Daly said. "We went through a lot of the areas we'd covered over the summer. We started closing off some agreements in some areas, and some continued areas of disagreements in others. It's part of the process."
All of the issues, big and small, must be ironed out before hockey can get out of the board room and back on the ice. So while the divisive topics still need to be tackled, the smaller ones have to be worked on, too.
That was the goal on Friday, and will continue to be on Saturday and Sunday when talks continue at the league's New York office.
"I don't want to use the adjective optimistic, but it was a productive discussion," NHL Players' Association special counsel Steve Fehr said. "We had a good session, and hopefully it will continue and build momentum."
A handful of players also took part in Friday's talks.
The groups agreed on issues related to player safety and drug testing, areas that weren't expected to be contentious. When they get back together over the weekend, they still aren't expected to dive into the splitting up of hockey-related revenue.
Players received 57 percent of the net hockey-related revenues in the previous collective bargaining agreement, and owners want to bring that number down under 50 percent.
The sides aren't moving closer to a compromise while they talk about other issues.
And that is where the frustration lies. The NHL is waiting for the players' association to make a counterproposal to one the league made in the previous bargaining session more than two weeks ago.
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