Penguins' Crosby, Burkle take charge in NHL talks | Hockey | CBC Sports

Hockey Night in CanadaPenguins' Crosby, Burkle take charge in NHL talks

Posted: Wednesday, December 5, 2012 | 09:25 AM

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Pittsburgh Penguins star Sidney Crosby has reportedly stepped out of the background and to the forefront of negotiations with the NHL. (Chris Young/Canadian Press) Pittsburgh Penguins star Sidney Crosby has reportedly stepped out of the background and to the forefront of negotiations with the NHL. (Chris Young/Canadian Press)

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There are two big storylines developing from Tuesday's lengthy labour talks between the NHL and the NHLPA here in Manhattan.

The first is that Steve Fehr, the NHLPA's number two, referred to yesterday as "the best day we've had." The second is the Pittsburgh contingent's effort to end the lockout. Let's take a look at both situations.
Good morning, hockey fans.

There are two big storylines developing from Tuesday's lengthy labour talks between the NHL and the NHLPA here in Manhattan.

The first is that Steve Fehr, the NHLPA's number two, referred to yesterday as "the best day we've had." The second is the Pittsburgh contingent's effort to end the lockout. Let's take a look at both situations:

'The best day we've had'


For the first time since this epic craziness began, two of its major negotiators (Fehr and Bill Daly) stood together for a media briefing after it was over. And Daly, who sounded horribly pessimistic about the players' efforts as recently as last week, made a point of crediting their work during the short availability.

That's pretty significant. If yesterday's meetings did anything, they changed the tone of the conversation. From the moment the NHL contingent walked into the hotel early Tuesday afternoon, they just had a different, more relaxed vibe than the couple of times I attended in Toronto.

Larry Tanenbaum, for example, kidded with a cameraman who was wearing a Maple Leafs cap. That broke the record for positive interactions with media, which was at zero. (Before anyone gets mad at me, that's a joke, guys.)

The two big questions for Wednesday are: Can momentum be sustained? And, what will the rest of the Governors think?

One of the biggest problems with this process so far is that any positive movement evaporates once deeper discussions set in. Today, for example, was believed to be the day the league was going to pull its $211-million "make-whole" offer from the table.

Now, where does that stand? The answer to those kinds of questions determines where we go from here.

The players held a conference call with membership between sessions last night. The Governors, however, must wait until Wednesday to get a full update on the proceedings. (There will be another round of talks Wednesday morning before the Board of Governors meeting is scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. ET.)

If they're as positive as everyone else was about Tuesday's talks, then we have some real traction. And, considering many of them were fed up with the ineffective nature of previous discussions, it's likely they'll be supportive.


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The Penguins

Here's a quick story about Penguins owner Ron Burkle.

In 2008, Pittsburgh was weighing whether or not to trade for Marian Hossa. It was going to add payroll to the roster and put them at the cap, before the organization really planned to be an at-the-cap team. Plus, it was going to cost them three bodies and a first-round draft pick.

It turned out to be a great trade for them -- we forget Pascal Dupuis, who has been a really good piece, also came in that deal. Burkle, who had to approve this added expenditure, simply asked, "Does this guy [Hossa] give us a chance to win the Stanley Cup?"

He was told, "Yes." So he said, "Then let's do it."

Burkle, who lives across the continent from his team, doesn't have a lot to do with the day-to-day operations. But he thinks big-picture and is not afraid of being assertive.

Well, he certainly made an aggressive move on Wednesday. As Rob Rossi of The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported, Burkle flew with Sidney Crosby and agent Pat Brisson to the meetings.

For a while now, there've been rumours this group -- and you can throw in Mario Lemieux, too -- have been extremely unhappy with the glacial pace of negotiations. Think it's safe to confirm those rumblings.

It's clear that they arrived in New York City with a plan to get things back on the rails. While details are still to come, Burkle and Crosby were two major parts of yesterday's discussion. They crafted an agenda and discussed how to implement it.

That was a success. Now we're going to see if those successes continue.

The final question

What does this mean for Gary Bettman and Donald Fehr? Both men were in attendance Tuesday, although not in the joint meetings. Whenever the two sides retreated to adjacent rooms for internal conversation, they were part of that.

There's been enormous frustration throughout the industry with the inability to close a deal, especially since we can all see the finish line.

Overshadowed by the other news from yesterday was this question: If these talks continue the positive momentum, are Bettman and Fehr out of the picture for good?

It wouldn't be as big a story as a new CBA, but it would still be a pretty significant development.

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