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Union continues negotiation preparations

by Brian Hedger /

CHICAGO -- The National Hockey League Players' Association continued to discuss details and strategy for pending labor negotiations during its second day of its annual executive board meetings Tuesday at the Peninsula Hotel.

After the first night of meetings Monday night, which lasted until roughly 10 p.m., the 53 players in attendance at the three-day conference met throughout Tuesday in a rotation of three breakout sessions to discuss different subjects -- mostly concerning the pending negotiations for a new Collective Bargaining Agreement.

The current CBA expires Sept. 15.

"We had a lot of good discussions about where our priorities are and that's kind of why we broke down into the groups, just trying to educate ourselves a little bit more," Washington Capitals forward Troy Brouwer said. "Smaller groups aren't so intimidated to talk and share ideas."

The conclusion of these meetings Wednesday includes an update about when initial negotiations will begin, as well as an announcement on the makeup of the NHLPA negotiating committee, which is expected to include more than 30 players.

The negotiating committee members will be determined through a vote of the executive board, which is comprised of designated representatives for all 30 teams. Players filling in for designated team reps who weren't able to attend this meeting will cast binding votes in place of the team rep.

It's an important facet because the official negotiating committee, along with Executive Director Donald Fehr, will control the direction of the negotiations from the players' perspective and disseminate information to the rest of the membership.

"I have all the faith in world in the negotiating committee that's donating their time and becoming informed on all the issues, and certainly Don's got a wealth of experience in dealing with these types of things," veteran Chicago Blackhawks forward Jamal Mayers said. "We're certainly going to lean on his expertise and also the negotiating committee in passing on the information."

The agenda Tuesday was largely informational, but also provided players with a chance to discuss issues extensively in the breakout sessions.

"There's been a lot of presentations with information, but there's also been times where we could voice our opinion and really get down to some nuts and bolts of what's important to us," St. Louis Blues captain David Backes said. "It's been a lot of information, but it's great to be informed."

Players who aren't in attendance will have more opportunities to stay current on CBA negotiations during the next few months at regional union meetings scheduled for locations in Europe and in North America -- including Barcelona, Moscow, Toronto, Kelowna, B.C., and Chicago.

"I don't know if it's (about) being that much smarter," New York Islanders star John Tavares said of the sessions. "It's just being more aware and understanding that negotiations are starting very shortly and we're preparing ourselves, working toward a fair deal with the League and working with the League to improving our game in all aspects."

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