NEW YORK — Gary Bettman believes the NHL took a “significant” step with the counter-proposal it presented in the latest round of collective bargaining.
The commissioner laid out the details of a new offer to the NHL Players’ Association on Tuesday morning and later told reporters that it was an improvement from the initial offer put forth by the NHL last month.
“We believe that we made a significant, meaningful step,” said Bettman.
Neither side would discuss specific elements of the new deal. NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr gave an initial response to the league on Tuesday afternoon and requested that the parties gather again Wednesday after the union has had more time to examine it.
“It’s a proposal that we intend to respond to,” said Fehr. “I’ll leave it at that.”
The current collective agreement expires Sept. 15 and the NHL has said it will lock the players out if a new deal isn’t reached by then.
Until now, the owners and players have had trouble getting on the same page with discussions. Bettman indicated the league’s new offer was a direct counter-proposal to the offer the players put forth two weeks ago and hopes it helps spark negotiations.
“I’m trying to get us on to the same page, I’m trying to get us on to a common language,” he said.
The proposal was unveiled in an intimate setting, with only Fehr and top assistant Steve Fehr in the room for the players and Bettman and deputy commissioner Bill Daly for the league. The morning meeting lasted about 45 minutes and concluded with Donald Fehr saying he wanted to apprise his constituents of the situation.
About four hours later, the Fehr brothers returned to the NHL’s head office along with players Mathieu Darche, Ron Hainsey and Douglas Murray.
The afternoon session was over in about 30 minutes, with both sides agreeing to meet again on Wednesday. Fehr said he expects to have more players in town to consult with.
The NHLPA didn’t give any indication if it shared Bettman’s view on how meaningful the new proposal was, although Darche expressed some hope about the process.
“I’m encouraged that we’re talking, to be honest with you,” he said, while adding that it’s obvious the league took time to come up with the new proposal.
The sides have turned to smaller groups in an effort to bridge a considerable gap in talks.
Bettman, Daly and the Fehr brothers also sat down together last week in Toronto, but they’ve been unable to agree on the general framework that will shape the next agreement so far.