NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, left, leaves the NHLPA offices with Assistant… (Chris Young / Associated…)
Revenue sharing and the NHL's "make whole" mechanism to pay players the full value of their contracts dominated six hours of conversation Wednesday when representatives of the league and the NHL Players' Assn. met for the second straight day at an undisclosed site in New York.
They plan to meet again Thursday, again avoiding media scrutiny as they try to reach a new collective bargaining agreement and end the lockout the league imposed Sept. 15.
People with knowledge of the proceedings who were not authorized to comment said that the sides have reached the stage of real negotiation instead of one side expecting the other to capitulate, and that the process will be slow as they test wills.
NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said he wouldn't comment on the substance or subject matter of the talks. Donald Fehr, executive director of the NHLPA, said in a prepared statement: "The NHLPA and the NHL met today to discuss many of the key issues. We look forward to resuming talks" Thursday.
The NHL's last proposal, put forward Oct. 16, would have committed $200 million toward revenue sharing that would shore up weaker clubs. Players wanted the league to contribute $250 million.
The make-whole issue hinges on players' objections to losing money by making hefty escrow payments as they transition from last season's 57% of hockey-related revenue to 50%. The NHL said it would repay them with deferred money, but in its last offer those payments would have counted against players' future earnings. Resolving that difference has been thorny.
Meanwhile, the chief executive of Molson Coors Brewing Co., whose sponsorship deal with the NHL has been valued at $375 million, blamed the lockout for the company's declining beer sales in Canada. Peter Swinburn told the Canadian Press news agency he will seek financial compensation from the NHL. "I can't quantify that, and I don't know because I don't know the scale of how long the lockout is going to last," he said.