NHL, NHLPA To Meet Again Wednesday - Sides Reportedly "Cautiously Optimistic"

Bruce Bennett

Bill Daly and Steve Fehr appeared together at the same podium following the meeting, calling the day a productive one.

Sources are telling every hockey media outlet imaginable that "cautious optimism" is being felt by both sides at this late hour as talks that started at 2:00pm EST Tuesday in New York just wrapped up after 10 hours of off and on discussion.

They'll continue tomorrow, most notably, without Gary Bettman and Donal Fehr in the room according to Darren Dreger.

"In some ways it's the best day we've had," said Steve Fehr as the session finally broke. He called it a "productive" meeting. Bill Daly confirmed on his way out that this same group will convene before the Board of Governors meeting at NHL headquarters tomorrow.

Cautious optimism, of course, is a term that's been utilized previously in this news cycle. The details that get leaked following such turns of events have unfailingly turned the tenor of public opinion to an extremely sour note.

These talks, unlike sessions of official bargaining that include proposals and counter-proposals, are being called merely conversations. They're exploratory in nature, meant to find a way forward so that real offers can be tables down the road. To borrow a phrase from Cowboys' head coach Jason Garrett - 'It's a process'.

The lengthy nature of the talks might be attributed to genuine progress but with so many new faces in the room it's likely that definitions of and positions on outstanding issues needed to be established before substantive talks could begin.

Perhaps the most interesting tidbit from this evening's proceedings was that Bill Daly and Steve Fehr stood together at a podium to make a joint segment.

Players are reportedly very receptive to what Pittsburgh Penguins owner Ron Burkle has to say. Sidney Crosby being one of 18 players in the room doesn't hurt, and some feel the combination of the two could be key. Burkle has a reputation for being a business man that "makes deals". He's being called a moderate voice of reason that may be fueling the length of these on-going talks.

Rob Rossi of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported earlier tonight that Crosby, Burkle and Mario Lemieux had met together privately to discuss bridging the gap between the sides after all three had grown frustrated with lack of progress.

The moderates on each side working together is what's been needed. If true it could provide a way out of what's become a ridiculous and damaging conflict, ravaging a sport flirting with irrelevance in too many markets.

Gary Bettman has a previously scheduled (having nothing to do with these latest talks) news conference on tap tomorrow afternoon which could hold news of progress - Or cancellation of the remainder of the December schedule. Various hockey media on Twitter have speculated that a drop-dead date could be on the horizon and likely sometime this month.

No details on dollar figures or player contracting rights have been leaked to the media as of about 11:30pm CST Tuesday night. That's encouraging according to most. It's also been said before.

It's all been said before.

Repeatedly.

All we can do is continue to hope for what would be a mighty Christmas present, indeed.

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