Bettman, Goodenow not in attendance

Updated: February 13, 2005, 10:00 PM ET
Associated Press

NEW YORK -- No progress was reported Sunday by the NHL or the players' association after the sides met with federal mediators in Washington just hours before a weekend deadline to save the season.

The meeting that lasted just over five hours was arranged Friday at the request of a high-ranking federal mediator. Neither commissioner Gary Bettman nor players' association executive director Bob Goodenow attended.

Instead, NHL chief legal officer Bill Daly was joined by outside counsel Bob Batterman, with players' association senior director Ted Saskin and outside counsel John McCambridge on the other side.

"There was no progress to report as a result of this meeting, and in fairness to the process it would serve no purpose to comment further," Saskin said in a statement.

The sides were assisted by mediators twice before -- as recently as a Feb. 2 negotiating session in Newark, N.J. Sunday's meeting was requested by Scot B. Beckenbaugh, the acting director of the U.S. Federal Mediation & Conciliation Service.

It wasn't clear if this get-together would extend the commissioner's deadline. Bettman said a new collective bargaining agreement had to be in place by Sunday for there to be a shortened season.

"No progress in the collective bargaining process resulted from the meeting," Daly said. "We have no further comment."

Neither side thought mediation would help end the stalemate that has lasted five months.

"This isn't a negotiation that failed due to a lack of understanding," Daly said on Thursday. "This is a negotiation that has failed for other reasons. I don't think a mediator would help in this process."

After two days of talks broke off Thursday in Toronto, Saskin also didn't see mediation as the way to reach a settlement.

"That's not something we've given a lot of consideration to, and certainly the NHL has made clear from Day 1 that they're not interested in any form of mediation -- binding or nonbinding," he said. "If the NHL came forward and said they wanted to do binding mediation, then we'd have to do the analysis and have the discussion."

Earlier Sunday, neither side seemed willing to budge or come together again to work on a deal.

"Our position hasn't changed," a players' association spokesman said.

"We will not be reaching out to them," Daly said.

The lockout reached its 151st day Sunday, when the league was supposed to hold its All-Star game in Atlanta. So far, 824 of the 1,230 regular-season games have been lost and the remainder of the schedule seems close to being wiped out.

Bettman said a deal needed to be down to the writing stages by Sunday so the NHL could hold a 28-game season and a regular 16-team playoff.

The NHL said its 30 clubs need to know what their costs would be, and the only way that could be achieved was with a salary cap that linked league revenues to player costs.

A cap was an automatic deal-breaker for the union even though it agreed that the financial landscape had to change. The players' association contended that there are many other ways to fix it.

The sides have traded proposals throughout the lockout that started on Sept. 16. But the owners haven't come off their salary-cap demands, and the players haven't relented on their declaration that they won't accept that solution.

Other issues such as arbitration, revenue-sharing, and rookie caps, haven't gotten to the true negotiating stage because the sides couldn't tackle the big issue that seems likely to doom the season.

On Friday, the NHL sent a memo to its 30 clubs, allowing them to contact players -- something that was previously forbidden. The memo also allowed team executives to speak publicly about the lockout without being subject to significant fines.


Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press

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