NHL labor meeting lasts less than an hour after busy day of talks

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Negotiations for a collective bargaining agreement to end the NHL lockout continued on the first day of 2013.

Barely.

Officials of both the league and NHL Players' Association were busy throughout most of Tuesday, but they didn't get together for a full-fledged bargaining session until around 9 p.m.

That meeting lasted less than an hour, however, and was highlighted by the league responding to a counteroffer it had gotten from the union Monday.

"They did make a comprehensive response to what we gave them [Monday]," NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr told reporters at the meeting site in New York.

He added that the union needed time to review what it had been given, and that he expects the sides to get together again today.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman told the media that the NHL's counter included movement on some issues, though he did not elaborate, and that "we're clearly not done" with the process.

The NHL and union spent much of Tuesday in internal meetings, with the NHL sculpting its presentation for the NHLPA to consider, and small-group discussions of issues such as revenue-sharing and pensions.

Craig Adams, Penguins player representative, took part in the meetings. The other players who participated were Chris Campoli, Mathieu Darche, Rick DiPietro, Shane Doan, Andrew Ference, Ron Hainsey, Jamal Mayers and Martin St. Louis.

There is a growing sense of urgency around the negotiations because of two deadlines that have been set by the league.

Bettman has made it known that the NHL views Jan. 11 as the final day on which a CBA can be forged in time to save a shortened season, and that play in a 48-game season would have to begin no later than Jan. 19.

The Penguins who have been organizing their own workouts at Southpointe will stray from their routine and skate there today. They have taken almost every Wednesday off since the lockout began.

And while the decision to practice today was made many hours before the meeting Tuesday, the players seem convinced that this round of talks will determine whether there are NHL games this winter.

That's no surprise, given the deadlines the league has established.

"I think everyone knew mid-January was [the time to] either get it done or cancel the season," center Joe Vitale said. "We're at that point now."

There has been a surge of optimism that a shortened season can be saved since the league put forth a comprehensive, 288-page proposal Thursday, leading to the response Monday from the NHLPA.

People on both sides have seemed encouraged about the possibility of a deal, but that has happened more than a few times in recent months. Invariably, the hope has turned to disappointment.

"You think you give your best offer and they don't think so, and vice versa," Pascal Dupuis said. "Until we hit that middle ground where everybody's comfortable ... we're at that point now where both sides have to agree.

"They sent something that made more sense, and so did we. Hopefully, we're speaking the same language right now. It's a matter of agreeing on numbers."

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Dave Molinari: Dmolinari@Post-Gazette.com and Twitter: @MolinariPG.


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