It may be just a sliver of sunshine behind an impending cloud of doom, but NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly confirmed Wednesday night that he had a “substantive” conversation with NHLPA special counsel Steve Fehr that could bring the league’s owners and players back to the bargaining table.
In an email to Shelly Anderson of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Daly wrote, “Steve and I had a substantive call [Tuesday]. Don’t yet know what, if anything, will come of it.”
At a time when rhetoric surrounding negotiations has been nothing but negative, Daly’s use of the word “substantive” could be a breakthrough in talks between the owners and players as they try to bridge the gap preventing them negotiating a new CBA.
Clearly, the clock is ticking.
With all October games in the rear view mirror and all November games already canceled, the NHL has painted a bull’s eye on the Jan. 1 Winter Classic scheduled for Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, with a kill date of Friday.
The NHL has already paid a non-refundable fee of $100,000 to the University of Michigan and another $250,000 installment is due on Friday.
Given the fact construction on an outdoor rink is not scheduled until Dec. 1, the NHL still would have time to salvage the Winter Classic if Tuesday’s “substantive” talks lead to substantial movement from the owners and/or players.
The NHL and its players have not had formal discussions since Oct. 18 when the league rejected the players’ three counter proposals to an Oct. 16 offer to equally divide the league’s estimated $3.3 billion in annual revenue.