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December 13, 2012

NHL, union still apart after talks

NEW YORK — The latest round of NHL labor talks ended with the two sides not even getting into the same room with each other.

The players’ association and league negotiators met separately Wednesday with federal mediators in suburban New Jersey, holding discussions that didn’t immediately appear to have moved the sides any closer to a deal to save the hockey season.

There was hope going into Wednesday that negotiations could get back on track to the point they were last Thursday before talks fell apart.

When the NHL agreed last week to increase its make-whole offer of deferred payments from $211 million to $300 million it was part of a proposed package that required the union to agree on three nonnegotiable points. Instead, the players’ association accepted the raise in funds, but then made counterproposals on the issues the league stated had no wiggle room.

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman then said that the offer was being pulled from the table. However, mediators informed the union on Wednesday that the proposal was still available, but it carried a take-it-or-leave it ultimatum.

“It wasn’t much of a decision,” said Brendan Morrison, one of 13 players to attend Wednesday’s talks. “I thought the gap would be closed much quicker, but it hasn’t come to fruition yet, so we have to keep working.”

All games through Dec. 30 have been canceled, about 43 percent of the season, along with the New Year’s Day Winter Classic, and the All-Star game.

No new meetings have been scheduled.

Mediators rejoined the process Wednesday, at the request of the players’ association, after they were unable to move the sides any closer to a deal during two days of talks last month.

Whether they will stay involved beyond Wednesday remains to be seen.

“We did several different caucus meeting rooms, and really there’s nothing new to report,” NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said Wednesday, the 88th day of the league’s lockout. “We don’t have a conclusion to the process.”

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