With consternation and anger mounting over the ongoing lockout, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and deputy commissioner Bill Daly met with NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr on Friday in two separate, secret meetings to discuss the next step in the ongoing labor negotiations.
According to an NHLPA statement, the union "met with the NHL today at our offices in Toronto regarding moving the process forward," and stated that the players association will be in contact with the league over the weekend.
The meetings, which weren't reported until after the NHLPA's statement was released, were held in the morning and in the afternoon and also included NHLPA special counsel Steve Fehr. The two sides met for five straight days last week and into the weekend, although the core economics that have created the divide in negotiations were not discussed.
It seemed as though the attitudes following those meetings were far from positive, with both sides takes shots at one another via social media and released statements all week long. There also appears to be a growing vendetta between the players and Bettman, a sign that the lockout was more than just business and fueled fears that the lockout could last a very, very long time.
Now, secret meetings to discuss the "process" of how to move negotiations forward are from enough to make us feel as if this were some sort of watershed moment in the talks. Instead, it seems as if both sides are at least acknowledging that the stalemate was far from productive and that someone needs to figure out what the next move is going to be.
ESPN's Pierre Lebrun reported that the NHL "strongly urged" the NHLPA to come up with a new offer, while the NHLPA repeated the same request of the league. It's the same dance that has been played between the two sides for nearly four weeks, although it certainly appears as if they realize that the dance needs to end sooner than later.
In short, both sides expressing to each other that it's time to compromise.
If this sentiment is true, then it can only be seen as a good thing. But this will not come anywhere near to being an actual turning point if progress is not made, if a new offer is not put on the table and if one side shows the willingness to compromise first.
But this is about two sides who are refusing to blink first. The league apparently holds all of the leverage, even with the players exiting stage left to all corners of the globe while expressing their distrust and discontent with Bettman. So far, neither the NHL nor the NHLPA has shown any sign of backing down and while the meetings are certainly a good sign -- the finish line is far from in sight.
But it's a start.