Labor Log: Game on (maybe) as moderates join NHL labor talks. Best news yet during lockout?


Big developments Sunday, dear readers; as Ron Burkle, the Penguins’ majority co-owner, will be among six owners to meet with select players at a meeting Tuesday in New York.

First up, the statements:

• NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly:

 “We have confirmed with the Union that we will attempt to schedule a Players/Owners-only meeting for some time on Tuesday afternoon in New York.

No further details have been confirmed at this point. We expect the following NHL Owners to attend: Ron Burkle (Pittsburgh Penguins), Mark Chipman (Winnipeg Jets), Murray Edwards (Calgary Flames), Jeremy Jacobs (Boston Bruins), Larry Tanenbaum (Toronto Maple Leafs) and Jeff Vinik (Tampa Bay Lightning).  We will provide further details when available and as appropriate.”

• NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr:

“The NHLPA has agreed to a meeting on Tuesday in New York that should facilitate dialogue between Players and Owners.  Neither the Commissioner nor I will be present, although each side will have a limited number of staff or counsel present. 

 “There will be Owners attending this meeting who have not previously done so, which is encouraging and which we welcome.  We hope that this meeting will be constructive and lead to a dialogue that will help us find a way to reach an agreement.”


♦ The absence of Fehr and NHL commissioner Gary Bettman is significant. Right or wrong, they are polarizing figures for both sides at this point in the murky process.

More significant, perhaps, is that four perceived moderate clubs (Penguins, Jets, Lightning and Maple Leafs) will be represented. Also, consider the markets: Three Canadian (Calgary, Toronto and Winnipeg), a high-profile U.S. team with post-lockout success on and off the ice (Penguins), a southern stronghold (Tampa Bay), and a U.S. original six staple (Boston).

Vital was getting fresh voices in the room. Equally important is having Jacobs and Edwards, both of whom have been criticized – especially Jacobs – for their backing of Bettman’s lockout plan.

To be fair, all 30 teams voted to approve the lockout before it was enacted Sept. 15 – but only a handful of owners have attending meetings with the union since. NHL bylaws require that only eight of 30 clubs back the lockout, and the NHL owns the Phoenix franchise vote until new ownership is approved.

However, even with Daly to attend the session, it is necessary for Jacobs and Edwards to attend. They represent an American and Canadian market, and they know best the details from previous meetings.

Burkle, as you can read here, is a reputable negotiator:

The union would do well to have Sidney Crosby attend this meeting, given his knowledge of the negotiations and good relationship with Burkle.

Crosby has previously attended two group negotiations and two NHLPA meetings.


♦ Games are canceled through Dec. 14. A Board of Governors meeting is scheduled for Friday in New York.

 Do the math. Clearly things are picking up, perhaps moving toward some sort of end-game scenario.

Players wanted new owners to have a say. They have that.

This might be a one-time shot for cooler heads to prevail, so the NHLPA must choose its players wisely.

If the new owners, especially a famous negotiator such as Burkle, leave that room Tuesday thinking there is no commonality with the union – well, hope for a season will not be lost, but it will not be justified.

If Tuesday goes well – as in, the new owners in the meeting leave that room seeing a deal is there to be made – perhaps meaningful negotiations can begin to get the NHL on ice by New Year’s Day. If so, perhaps 60 games can still be played – certainly the 48 that were played in the shortened 1995 season.

Who knows?

And who knows who still cares?