After a lockout spanning almost nine weeks, the only thing the NHL and NHL Players' Association are talking about is taking a break.
Commissioner Gary Bettman has suggested placing a two-week moratorium on stalled collective bargaining negotiations, multiple sources told The Canadian Press on Thursday night. The offer came after Bettman received a phone call from Donald Fehr on Wednesday in which the NHLPA executive director said he didn't know how the sides could proceed from their current stalemate.
Rather than providing an immediate answer, Fehr told Bettman he would need to bounce the idea off his membership before responding. The union has repeatedly taken the position that it would prefer to meet rather than having breaks during the labour dispute, and suggested again Thursday it will continue to favour that position.
"We believe that it is more likely that we will make progress if we meet than if we don't," NHLPA special counsel Steve Fehr said in a statement. "So we are ready to meet. If indeed they do not want to meet, it will be at least the third time in the last three months that they have shut down the dialogue, saying they will not meet unless the players meet their preconditions.
"What does that tell you about their interest in resolving this?"
The potential freeze comes with talks already having fallen silent after a busy stretch of meetings last week in New York. By the time negotiations broke off last Sunday, it was clear that distrust and some bad feelings had made their way into the bargaining room.
The sides have been unable to agree on proposed changes to player contract rights and how to share revenue, and will also need to sort out how they pay for the damage of a lockout that reached 62 days on Friday.
Pessimism has grown while losses have started to mount. On Thursday, players missed their third paycheque of the season while the league moved closer to making another round of game cancellations, prompting some to suggest the entire year could be in danger.