NEW YORK — The locked-out NHL players’ association returned to the bargaining table Tuesday, and this time brought Sidney Crosby along.
On Day 52 of the lockout that has delayed the start of the hockey season and threatened to wipe it out completely, the league and the players sat down for the second round of negotiations in four days at an undisclosed site.
Not only were NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly and union special counsel Steve Fehr there, as they were for a marathon session by themselves Saturday. They were joined by Commissioner Gary Bettman, NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr, a handful of team owners, and 13 players including Crosby, who has been an active participant in the process.
“We’re hopeful that we’ll start bargaining and we’ll continue bargaining until we find a way to make a deal,” Donald Fehr said Tuesday before talks started. “Sometimes that goes in rather long sessions with short breaks and sometimes you take a few hours or half a day or a day to work on things before you come back together. I don’t know which it will be.
“We certainly hope we’ll be continuing to meet on a regular basis. I hope they do, too. I’m just not making any predictions.”
Fehr’s brother Steve met with Daly on Saturday in a secret location, and neither provided many details of what was discussed, but both agreed that the meeting was productive. That was proven when the sides agreed to quickly meet again Tuesday. There had been no negotiations since talks broke off on Oct. 18 until Saturday.
“The players’ view has always been to keep negotiating until we find a way to get agreement and you sort of stay at it day by day, so it’s very good to be getting back to the table,” Donald Fehr said. “We hope that this time it produces more progress than we’ve seen in the past, and that we can find a way to make an agreement and to get the game back on the ice as soon as possible.
“We’re hopeful that we’ll start bargaining and we’ll continue bargaining until we find a way to make a deal.”
The NHL requested that the exact location for Tuesday’s negotiations in New York be kept secret, and the players’ association adhered. Time is becoming a bigger factor every day that passes without a deal. The lockout, which went into effect Sept. 16 after the previous collective bargaining agreement expired, has already forced the cancellation of 327 regular-season games — including the New Year’s Day outdoor Winter Classic in Michigan.
Whether any of the games that have been called off through Nov. 30 can be rescheduled if an agreement is made soon hasn’t been determined. But the NHL has already said that a full 82-game season won’t be played.