The NHL and NHL Players' Association, trying to come up with a new collective bargaining agreement before the league's owners vow to lock out the players a week from Saturday, met twice in New York today for what were described as informal discussions.
Wild center Zenon Konopka was one of three NHL players who attended the sessions, which he called for "educational purposes" rather than formal negotiations.
"We're getting down to the nitty gritty here, and we're trying to understand the league's proposal to the best of our ability and we're trying to explain ours to them. We're trying to find some common ground and something to build off.
"It's a good sign that we're sitting down in the same room. That can be taken as a positive, I guess. We, as players, are trying to do everything we can to get a deal done."
Last Friday, negotiations between the two sides stalled. The NHL is trying to decrease the share of hockey related revenue the players receive from 57 percent and wants players to take paycuts over a three-year period.
Revenue sharing is a big part of the union's proposal, with the NHLPA wanting teams to distribute $240 million and the league wanting to share $190 million. Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly told the Star Tribune on Wednesday that the sides are in the "same ballpark" and indicated that revenue sharing is not the type of thing that would hold up an agreement, that the share if the pie would.
"At the end of the days, the players want to make sure we address the root of the problem and make sure the game is healthy for years to come. We want to put mechanisms in place (to assistance the struggling markets)."
Konopka said the communication between Executive Director Donald Fehr with the 700 union members has been "sensational" throughout the negotiations and "we want to get a fair deal for everybody involved. That's easier said than done. I'm optimistic by nature, so that's the route I usually take. I think there's enough time to get a deal done by Sept. 15.
"I can tell you I just left the union office and the whole staff is still there working. We want to make a deal."
Konopka was staying in New York until Saturday morning when it is to be decided when the two sides will meet again. In the meantime, he says 180 players are expected to be in New York on Wednesday and Thursday for two days of NHLPA meetings.
The NHL will also hold a Board of Governors meeting in New York on Thursday, where Commissioner Gary Bettman will give an update in collective bargaining to the owners. Daly told the Star Tribune Wednesday that Bettman already has authorization from the owners to lock out if no agreement can be reached by the 15th.