NEW YORK (AP) — NHL labor talks that began during the day Wednesday stretched to nearly nine hours, and both sides planned to meet again later Thursday.
It isn't known what progress — if any — was made during the second straight day of marathon talks in the dispute that is threatening the entire hockey season, but owners and players surely sense that time is now a factor and a deal must be made soon to get the game back on the ice.
"We had good, candid dialogue," NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said early Thursday morning. "There continue to be some critical open issues between the two parties, and we understand the union should be getting back to us (Thursday) on some of those issues."
The players' association is expected to have internal discussions Thursday morning before meeting with the NHL.
"We had a series of candid discussions tonight. We will meet again tomorrow," said Winnipeg Jets defenseman Ron Hainsey, who like Daly didn't take any questions after the talks ended for the night.
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 an agreement. The sides began talks a little after 2 p.m. and kept going through the night, except for a two-hour dinner break.
Talks on Tuesday lasted about eight hours and wrapped up at midnight, with the promise that negotiations would continue Wednesday.
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. One point of contention is the length of the new contract, with owners looking for a 10-year pact, and players wanting a shorter term.
Owners often retreated to their 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 joint sessions lasted as few 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 discussions 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.
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