NEW YORK -- On the day the 2012-13 regular season was supposed to begin, National Hockey League Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly expressed his disappointment that the League and the National Hockey League Players' Association were not in a better position with respect to a new Collective Bargaining Agreement.
"I certainly hoped and would have expected we would be in a different place today," Daly said Thursday following a double session of negotiations that did not include any proposals being made on the fundamental economic and system issues separating the two sides.
"I would have expected we would have had an agreement," he continued. "I would have expected we would have been dropping the puck.
"In retrospect I look back at it and, while we were all hopeful during the course of the summer that there was plenty of time to get a deal done, maybe the fault lies in the fact that we didn't start negotiations until June 29. Again, that goes back to the level of urgency maybe with the Players' Association in not being prepared to have those discussions."
The League has already cancelled the first two weeks of the regular-season schedule and Daly has estimated that the shared revenue loss between the League and the NHLPA is about $250 million since the lockout was imposed Sept. 16.
"This is a bad situation we're in," Daly said. "There is no sense of assurance that we haven't done significant damage to the business, but again I come back to the fact that we wouldn't do this -- knowingly damaging our business -- unless there was a reason to do it. That suggests there's a pretty significant reason."
The negotiations Thursday focused on drug testing and various CBA legal issues.
There was no face-to-face meeting between the leaders of the two sides on Thursday. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, Daly, NHLPA Executive Director Donald Fehr and Special Counsel Steve Fehr previously met in private in Toronto last Friday and at the League office on Wednesday.
While both Daly and Steve Fehr said the sides are making progress in the drug-testing area, they agree it is not the major issue in the negotiation that is preventing a deal.
"There are still a few things for that, but that's not the core issue obviously," Fehr said. "And if we had everything else settled we could go back to work and solve the remaining issues in six hours if we had to."
Daly said Wednesday that the League's message to the NHLPA is to make a proposal on the economic issues to end the current stalemate.
When asked Thursday if the League would step forward with a new proposal, Daly said it is not inclined to do so because it has not seen a willingness from the Union to compromise off its initial proposal that featured set raises of 2 percent, 4 percent and 6 percent for the players in the first three years of the deal.
"It continues to be our belief that the Union has made one meaningful proposal in this entire process. That was on Aug. 14. They've made it three times and they're suggesting that's three different proposals; it wasn't," Daly said. "There wasn't a single dollar that changed in the first three years. We have, since that proposal, made two very meaningful proposals, significant financial movement in the Players' Association's direction. The bottom line is it's difficult to understand why we should make yet a third proposal in their direction."
Daly admitted that the Union's initial proposal "was a step in our direction," but said it is now two months old and they "haven't made another step in our direction."
"I understand Steve's comment about it not being a ping-pong match and I don't disagree with that necessarily," Daly later said, "but at some point we've got to see a willingness from the Players' Association to compromise because they haven't shown any willingness to compromise at this point."
Steve Fehr said the Union is constantly working on ideas that could turn into proposals, but his hope is that the NHL is doing the same thing.
"It's clear that they say they would like a new proposal from us. For that matter we would like a new proposal from them," Fehr said. "Neither side should stand on ceremony. If either side has an idea that will help they should bring it forward."
Fehr also suggested that the major economic issues can be discussed without proposals being made.
"You don't have to have an offer to have a meeting," Fehr said. "Most of the last few weeks, unless it was on their terms -- that is, unless we have a proposal -- they don't seem very interested in discussing the core economics."
No further negotiating sessions are scheduled.
"We didn't leave today's meeting saying this is ridiculous and there is no reason to continue meeting on any level," Daly said. "None of our discussions have led to that result. I don't expect them to at any time in the near future. But, as I said, until we're tackling the main issues I'm not sure what the urgency is to meet on a 24/7 basis."
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