NHL lockout 2012: Talks finally pick back up Tuesday

Bruce Bennett

If there's one thing we can all agree on about the lockout, it's that there won't be an NHL season if the owners and union don't meet. Well, for the first time since Oct. 18, the two sides did so privately this weekend and will do so again Tuesday in New York City.

The chance for full 82-game season is gone. The Winter Classic -- a big revenue generator for the league -- has been nixed. But for the first time in three weeks, there seems to be a bit of a thaw in the deadlock because there's been willingness from the NHL to make some concessions.

Friday, the big development was that the NHL was reportedly willing to compromise on its "make-hole" provision, which would see the league honor all existing contracts, with at least a substantial amount of current players' contracts in escrow being funded by the owners and not the players' share of hockey-related revenue.

Then, NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly and NHLPA special counsel Steve Fehr convened privately in an undisclosed location over the weekend, with Saturday's meeting lasting all day, into the early hours of Sunday. That meeting sparked optimism, if only because those two figures wouldn't have met for that long without some serious discussions -- and dare we say, headway? Afterward, Daly told NHL.com that there was a "good, frank discussion on the most important issues separating us," and Fehr even said he agreed, hopeful these productive talks would continue. There was obviously enough common groundwork laid that the two sides agreed to continue the negotiations this week

As opposed to the previous times the two sides met, there will be no post-talks press conference, according to CSNPhilly.com. The league now wants to keep everything under wraps and is optimistic that the "silence may lead to better traction in the talks." I say, do whatever it takes to get the the season here quicker, and that's focusing on getting this new CBA squared away.

Still, the best way to describe the mood is "cautious optimism," with the players wanting more specifics on the make-whole idea before getting too excited.

Here's what New York Rangers player representative Martin Biron had to say about the two sides returning to the bargaining table.

"I think every time there is a layoff where there's no talks and then talks resume, there's always optimism in the air," Biron told ESPN.com on Monday. "Obviously, everybody is cautiously optimistic with some of the exchanges that Steve and Bill had, even though it was more brainstorming than anything concrete. But to be able to schedule some meetings and get larger groups involved again is going to be a good thing. Still, as with every case in the last little while when people got too optimistic, it's just part of the process and we'll see where it goes."

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