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NHL lockout 2012: League, union quiet but talks to continue for fourth straight day

Bruce Bennett

A month ago, the whole world knew what the NHL Players' Association and owners were eating for lunch during their (rare) meetings. Fast forward to this week, and for the most part, nobody knows where the two sides are even convening.

The league and the players met for the third straight day Thursday, for five hours -- this time word leaked that it was at a law firm in New York City -- and will continue collective-bargaining negotiations Friday. That's literally all we have from either party, though, as neither has divulged any pertinent information to the media, with the locations of their talks undisclosed Tuesday and Wednesday.

"Because we have work to do and my hope is that we can achieve the goal of getting a long-term, fair agreement in place as quickly as possible so we can play hockey," Bettman said as the reasoning for not updating the media, according to ESPN.

They've decided to get serious and elected to end their two-month public-relations back-and-forth game. That's an excellent sign. Another promising development, which emerged his week, is that they continue to meet, for hours at a time. All told, there's been about 20 hours of discussions over the past three days.

As ESPN's Pierre LeBrun notes in his column on the lockout, Thursday was considered a make-or-break day. It was the day the league responded to the NHLPA's make whole and revenue sharing proposals. Even though LeBrun reports the union wasn't enamored with the league's counterproposal, the meeting didn't end. In fact, Aaron Ward of TSN's says the players didn't believe the proposals were rejected, rather they were "countered." Before this week's meetings, when the union provided three proposals Oct. 18, the league walked out within minutes. There is a different tenor to the talks now, a controlled desperation to save the season.

"This could still fall apart, but I'm ready to state that I believe there's a better chance of a deal getting done than not at this stage," LeBrun said.

Under the make whole offer from the NHLPA, the hockey-related revenue split would reach 50-50 in the third year, slowly getting phased in based on "regular" growth. However, the NHL wants the players to go down from 57 to 50 right away. How they bridge the gap will be crucial to if -- and how quickly -- a season gets underway.

Other issues that still need to be worked out include revenue sharing and contract rules as the NHL wants to do away with front-loaded contracts.