Fehr informed Bettman he’d like to speak with his membership first, a source said. The union likely will give Bettman a response Friday, although it is believed it would prefer meeting rather than not, according to TSN and ESPN.
Bettman’s suggestion follows a disheartening week of limited communication between the sides. The league and the union last met face to face on Sunday in a meeting that lasted less than an hour and yielded no progress.
After the short session, in which neither side seemed willing to concede on its respective position on player-contracting issues, Fehr said he couldn’t see a “path to an agreement.”
That prompted Bettman to float the possibility of the sides taking some time off to regroup before resuming negotiations, one source said.
The sides did not have any communication Thursday.
“I find it incredible that the Union is suggesting that we are somehow ‘close’ to a deal,” NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said in an email to ESPN. “They have utterly refused to negotiate for months. They have made essentially one proposal — five times. They continue to request a ‘guaranteed’ Players Share as part of the next agreement and we repeatedly tell them maybe they should get a reality check. And in the mean time, maybe they can make their position clear to us on 50-50, on the make-whole and on Player Contracting issues.”
NHLPA’s special counsel Steve Fehr countered Daly’s statement.
“Of course everyone on the players’ side wants to reach an agreement,” he said. “The players have offered the owners concessions worth about a billion dollars. What exactly have the owners offered the players? We believe that it is more likely that we will make progress if we meet than if we don’t.
“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?”