TORONTO — The NHL Players Association (NHLPA) made a number of presentations to owners on Thursday, as talks between the union and the NHL concluded for the week.
Player pensions, length of training camp and ice conditions were the topics of this round, as the two sides agreed to continue negotiations toward a new collective bargaining agreement on Monday in New York at the league offices.
Mathieu Schneider, special assistant to NHLPA executive director Don Fehr, said the two sides were involved in open discussion and also broke into smaller groups. The former NHL defenseman added that benefits have not been updated since the 1990s, while training camp issues include the schedule, player testing and the amount of preseason games in which veterans would be expected to participate.
On the issue of conditions, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said both sides want the “best ice possible.” Typically, as the season wears on, and the playoffs are held in the late spring, ice conditions tend to diminish. However, with an influx of newer arenas throughout the league — many of which have updated facilities to maintain the ice — those problems appear to have been reduced.
For instance, in the Stanley Cup finals last June, neither New Jersey’s Prudential Center nor Los Angeles’ Staples Center had problems with their surfaces.
“The Players Association made a couple of presentations, one on player pensions and the other on player health care and insurance,” Bettman said. “Then, there was a pretty good discussion on playing conditions in a smaller group, having to do with things like training camp and ice conditions.”
The players say they are waiting for specific financial information from the owners before submitting a counterproposal. There will be additional meetings on Tuesday and Wednesday of next week, as well, in Manhattan.
The NHL has had two seasons disrupted by labor disputes over the past two decades. A lockout wiped out the entire 2004-05 season. Almost half of the 1994-95 season was wiped out by a labor dispute. The current collective bargaining agreement ends on Sept. 15.
The season is slated to begin on Oct. 11.