Pair had been scheduled to attend hockey worlds

Updated: May 11, 2005, 12:31 PM ET
Associated Press

NEW YORK -- The NHL and the players' association remained tightlipped about the tone of the latest labor talks, but negotiators have put off this week's plans for a trip to the world hockey championships so discussions can keep rolling.

League commissioner Gary Bettman and union executive director Bob Goodenow will meet Wednesday and Thursday instead of heading to Austria -- a trip that might be canceled altogether.

Those plans changed Tuesday after a 3½-hour bargaining session in New York, the eighth official meeting since Bettman canceled the hockey season Feb. 16 because of the lockout.

PLAYER INVITED TO TALKS
At least one prominent player was invited to join Wednesday's discussions between the NHL and the NHLPA in New York, ESPN's Darren Pang has learned.

The player was invited Tuesday evening, after the day's meetings had concluded. While there is speculation the PA may have summoned players to participate in the "sub-issues" negotiations, it's likely his attendance is in relation to the formation of a competition committee, which would need to be included in a new CBA.
After eight hours of meetings last week and contentious comments coming from both sides, the atmosphere seemed poor. But the postponed travel wasn't necessarily a sign that an end to the impasse was near.

"No progress to report," NHL chief legal officer Bill Daly said Tuesday.

"The parties met today in New York City, and at the conclusion of the meeting they agreed to set aside time for additional meetings [Wednesday] and Thursday," union spokesman Jonathan Weatherdon said. "The NHLPA will not comment on the status of the negotiations until after this series of meetings concludes later this week."

Originally, the sides planned to talk about a new collective bargaining agreement on Monday and Tuesday in New York, but that was cut to just Tuesday after two days of discussions last week. They had already scheduled meetings for next Wednesday and Thursday, likely in Toronto.

"The union has agreed, at our request, to remain in New York to continue meeting in smaller groups over the next several days on a variety of sub-issues that need to be addressed in connection with a new CBA," Daly said.

Bettman, Daly, Goodenow and NHLPA senior director Ted Saskin were to arrive Wednesday in Austria. Many of the players taking part in the world championships are on NHL teams, and the United States and Canada qualified for the quarterfinal games that will take place Thursday.

The semifinals are Saturday and the gold and bronze medal games are scheduled for Sunday in Vienna.

The NHL made a new offer to the players last Thursday in Toronto, but no progress was reported by either side after talks ended Friday.

The latest proposal was spawned by a union offer April 4 that contained a hybrid concept that addressed the relationship between player salaries and league revenues. It contained an upper cap of $50 million and a floor of $30 million.

As before, the sides have not come close to an agreement on the values of the caps or how wide a range there should be between the minimums and maximums.

When the sides met April 19, the discussions ended with a heated exchange between Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs and union leadership. The tough talk continued this week when Daly and Saskin exchanged barbs.

Daly reportedly told a Web site for a Canadian sports television network that the union's analysis of the league's latest proposal was "grossly slanted" and "sheer fiction."

Rogers Sportsnet also reported that Daly accused Goodenow of not wanting to reach a settlement.

Saskin responded in a statement that part of the league's proposal was taken off the table because "it became clear how ill-conceived it was."


Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press