NEW YORK — Finally, there's reason to believe the NHL and the players' association are listening to each other and might be inching toward a labor agreement that would salvage some semblance of a season.
NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly, who has often accused the NHLPA of being unwilling to negotiate, was cordial toward the union after marathon meetings between selected owners and players at a New York hotel Tuesday. That was significant because Daly has been a loud and constant critic of the union's supposed reluctance to compromise.
"I think everybody wants to get a deal done, so I think that's encouraging," Daly said. "We look forward to making more progress" Wednesday.
Steve Fehr, special counsel to the NHLPA, expressed cautious optimism. He and Daly participated in two sessions Tuesday that included six owners and 18 players but not Commissioner Gary Bettman or NHLPA Executive Director Donald Fehr.
"It may have been the best day we've had so far," Steve Fehr said. "I don't want to paint too rosy of a picture, however. A lot of work remains to be done and we'll be back at it" Wednesday.
Neither would say how or where their positions had changed.
The same groups are expected to talk Wednesday before the NHL's Board of Governors gather and might continue discussions after the governors meet.
The presence Tuesday of Pittsburgh Penguins owner Ron Burkle, a California supermarket magnate, was said by many sources to be crucial in bringing the sides together. He has credibility among owners and players and business acumen that both sides respect.
The six owners and players met for 5 1/2 hours in their first session. They took a dinner break, reconvened about 9:30 Eastern time and spent nearly three more hours together.
Bettman suggested last week that the sides should meet without their respective leaders, hoping for a more open exchange than was possible with the head negotiators present. Apparently that occurred, thanks at least in part to Burkle.
The NHL has canceled games through Dec. 14, as well as the Winter Classic and the All-Star game. Another round of cancellations is certain if the sides don't reach an accord soon.
In addition to Burkle, the owners' delegation was composed of hard-liner Jeremy Jacobs of Boston, Mark Chipman of Winnipeg, Murray Edwards of Calgary, Larry Tanenbaum of Toronto and Jeff Vinik of Tampa Bay.
The players' roster was Craig Adams and Sidney Crosby of Pittsburgh; David Backes and Andy McDonald of St. Louis; Michael Cammalleri of Calgary; Mathieu Darche of Montreal; Shane Doan of Phoenix; Ron Hainsey of Winnipeg; Shawn Horcoff of Edmonton; Jonathan Toews and Jamal Mayers of Chicago; Manny Malhotra of Vancouver; Ryan Miller of Buffalo; former Duck and King George Parros of Florida; Brad Richards of the New York Rangers; Martin St. Louis and B.J. Crombeen of Tampa Bay; and Kings enforcer Kevin Westgarth.