NEW YORK – Winnipeg Jets defenseman Ron Hainsey is getting antsy. Not only is he anxious to get back to the bargaining table with the NHL, he really wants to be on the ice with his teammates.
As part of the negotiating committee for the players’ association, Hainsey has kept busy during the lockout by taking part in the ongoing talks with the NHL. But ongoing is now a relative term, because nothing has been going on between the sides since talks broke down again last week, despite the presence of a federal mediator for two days in New Jersey.
“We’ve said it a number of times, but it’s worth repeating: It’s obviously very difficult to make a deal if you’re not meeting or negotiating,” Hainsey told the Associated Press in a telephone interview Tuesday. “I’ve yet to see a way we can do it without sitting down across a table from each other.”
Two weeks ago, progress was made during several consecutive days of negotiations between players and owners in New York. The sides disagree on how close they might have moved toward a deal, but a major breakdown at the end wrecked any hope for a fast solution.
Since then, there’s been no collective bargaining agreement in sight and no talks were planned as of Tuesday afternoon.
“Nothing scheduled at this point,” Hainsey said. “We’ve always said we’re open to sit down and meet any time, and now we’re kind of in a situation where no one wants to make the first move.”
Players’ association executive director Donald Fehr declared then that an agreement was in reach, a notion that was quickly knocked down by NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman after the union declined to accept three non-negotiable points. When the offer wasn’t unconditionally accepted, the league turned down the union’s proposal and withdrew any offers it had made.
The lockout reached its 94th day Tuesday, and all games have been canceled through Dec. 30. Bettman has said the league doesn’t want a season with fewer than 48 games per team, so play would likely have to get under way by mid-January for that to be possible.
After talks ended last week, the focus suddenly shifted toward the courts when the NHL filed a federal class action suit Friday, seeking to establish that its lockout is legal. In a separate move, the NHL filed an unfair labor practice charge with the National Labor Relations Board, claiming the players’ association has bargained in bad faith.
The NHL says the union’s executive board is seeking authorization to give up its collective bargaining rights, a necessary step before players could file an antitrust lawsuit. The union has declined comment, although a vote on the matter will reportedly be completed Thursday.
The most success seemed to come in New York, when six owners joined about 18 players in talks without Bettman and Fehr.
“Both (sides) were very respectful of each other,” Hainsey said. “They were good meetings, they were productive, we did make progress. We were very appreciative of the way we were treated in the meetings by the owners. … Maybe it’s something that is worth revisiting and worthwhile and could possibly bring us closer to a deal.”