A nearly empty hockey stick rack in the Buffalo Sabres locker room. (David Duprey / Associated…)
Not that there's a rush or anything, but NHL executives and representatives of the NHL Players' Assn., who haven't sat down for a full bargaining session in two weeks, are scheduled to meet Friday in New York to discuss what is being called "non-core economic issues."
That means they're still unable to resolve the central dispute over the division of hockey-related revenues but will try to nibble around the edges and gain some traction on other issues.
Those are expected to include pensions, medical plans, drug testing, scheduling -- remember that the union blocked the league's proposed realignment last season because of travel-related concerns -- and the grievance process.
The season is still scheduled to open on Oct. 11, but that prospect is looking shakier by the day, especially if the two sides are putting aside their main economic disagreements for a while to discuss "non-core" issues.
Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said specific issues will include grievance arbitration, system arbitration, off-ice discipline, drug testing, ice conditions and workers compensation insurance
It's likely that the NHL will cancel another round of exhibition games before the two sides meet on Friday. The league previously canceled games through Sept. 30.
But looking at the bright side: Whenever the NHL resumes play, the games will be officiated by its regular officials and not replacements like those who are becoming the scourge of the NFL.
The NHL's on-ice officials are under contract, though they're not being paid during the lockout. They are eligible for low-interest loans to help tide them over.
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