The NHL and NHLPA met at what had previously been an undisclosed location in New Jersey on Wednesday, as federal mediators attempted once more to bridge the gap between the two sides. The league and the union did not meet face to face, as mediators worked back and forth with the two sides in separate rooms.
At the conclusion of the meetings, initial reports stated that once again things did not go well in the ongoing negotiations:
The key to that report, however, is that the "take it or leave it" offer that the NHL remains firm on was supposedly pulled off the table last week when talks fell apart in New York City. While federal mediators were once again unable to get the two sides closer together, the NHL and NHLPA remain extremely close on the proposals being discussed.
Three key issues remain under contention, including a proposed 10-year term limit on the CBA and seven- and five-year term restrictions on all new contracts. The NHL holds steady on it's demand that the NHLPA agrees to these three key points or else a deal will not be made. While there is not a formal offer on the table, reports indicate that the offer from last week still stands.
NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly met briefly with the media following the conclusion of the meeting, initially stating that there was nothing to report and that a new proposal is not on the table. Daly did not, however, state that talks were once again breaking off.
"There is no conclusion to this process right now," said Daly. Just minutes later, it seems that the short-term conclusion actually came.
Free agent veteran Brendan Morrison spoke briefly to the media as the NHLPA held a conference call with players, stating that, indeed, no progress had been made. Per Morrison, the NHL once again offered the "take it or leave it" proposal and that, once again, the players rejected it.
"It wasn't much of a decision," said Morrison.
Morrison would go on to state that, as close as they conceivably are, it seems that he's a bit exasperated at the state of the lockout.
"I never thought the issues were as big as they were back in 04-05. Apparently, I was wrong," said Morrison. "I thought the gap would be closed much quicker, but it hasn't come to fruition yet, so we have to keep working."
The owners are certainly trying to hold true to their stance that the player contract issues, the CBA term and a 5% variance from year to year in new contracts would be the "hill they will die on." Either the players accept these three terms or there will not be any hockey this season, is what the NHL is stating.
The staring contest continues. The NHLPA thinks that the league may waver on these issues while the owners hold firm that it's only up to the players; accept this deal and hockey will resume.
There are no future meetings scheduled.