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Top CBA negotiators meet, set stage for Thursday

by Shawn P. Roarke

TORONTO -- NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly met with NHLPA Executive Director Donald Fehr and NHLPA special counsel Steve Fehr for two hours at the Union office Wednesday to discuss assorted issues surrounding the core economic proposals from each side, as well as explore the best ways, from a procedural standpoint, to move forward in the Collective Bargaining Agreement negotiations.

A larger-scale negotiation session for Wednesday afternoon, however, was cancelled after the morning meeting involving the top parties from negotiating committees from the National Hockey League and the National Hockey League Players' Association.

The sides are still scheduled to meet Thursday morning here before the negotiations switch to the League office in New York next week.

The current CBA expires on Sept. 15. Commissioner Bettman has already stated the League will not play the 2012-13 season under the expiring agreement.

"I think more than anything else, [the meeting Wednesday] was to review where we are in the process, where we've come from, where we are with the various proposals, and to determine how to move the process forward in the best way possible -- hoping and understanding that both sides are committed to using the time left to making a deal as quickly as possible," Daly said

The cancellation of the meeting Wednesday was announced just minutes before it was supposed to begin at 1 p.m. The sides have not met in a full negotiating session since last Thursday here.

"We had the meetings this morning and talked about how we go forward and what we do next and the thought was made that we are better off doing some other things -- particularly on our side -- and reconvening in the morning," Fehr said. "This is an ordinary process in bargaining that happens."

Fehr cautioned against reading too much into the abrupt cancellation of the meeting Wednesday.

"This is one of the normal things that happen in bargaining," he said. "Sometimes, you schedule things and they don't come off. Sometimes, you don't schedule things and you end up with longer and more involved meetings; sometimes you change the format. This is an ordinary part of the process. I wouldn't attribute any particular significance beyond that."

The sides will reconvene Thursday for a full negotiating session that will focus on some of the core economic issues, as well as some systematic issues, according to Daly.

"I always remain hopeful. We're going to talk about system issues tomorrow -- system-related proposals. I think system-related proposals and economic proposals are the most critical issues and probably the issues where we have the widest divergence of views currently," Daly said. "I'm all in favor of spending as much time as possible trying to bridge those gaps."

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