A group of 18 players and six league owners spent more than five hours in meetings on Tuesday afternoon — and they resumed talks around 10 p.m. ET after taking a break for dinner.
The marathon session was accompanied by whispers of optimism, something that had previously been in short supply with the lockout into its 12th week. Penguins captain Sidney Crosby was among the players who sat across from the small cluster of owners, which included Pittsburgh's Ron Burkle, and those two were said to be strong voices in the room, according to sources.
Neither commissioner Gary Bettman nor NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr took part in the afternoon meetings, although both men were present at the midtown Manhattan hotel and held private sessions with their constituents.
It was hoped that an altered dynamic at the bargaining table might break the stalemate in talks. Bettman tabled the idea last week after the sides spent two unsuccessful days with U.S. federal mediators.
Four of the owners in attendance were taking part in their first bargaining session — Burkle, Winnipeg's Mark Chipman, Toronto's Larry Tanenbaum and Tampa's Jeff Vinik — and were accompanied by Boston's Jeremy Jacobs and Calgary's Murray Edwards, both part of the NHL's negotiating committee.
The players in attendance represented a cross-section of the NHLPA's membership.
Stars like Crosby, Jonathan Toews, Ryan Miller and Brad Richards joined the likes of Ron Hainsey, Mathieu Darche and Kevin Westgarth, who have been heavily involved throughout the summer.
There appeared to be a heightened sense of urgency around negotiations with the league's board of governors scheduled to gather Wednesday and more cancellations expected by the end of the week. All regular season games through Dec. 14, plus the Winter Classic and all-star game, have already been wiped off the schedule.
Money remains the biggest issue for the sides to bridge.
Even though both the league and union have proposed a 50-50 split of revenues, they remain separated on payments to be made outside the system to help ease the transition from the previous deal, which saw players receive 57 per cent. The NHL has offered $211 million in deferred compensation while the union has asked for $393 million.
There are also a number of rules governing player contracts that must be worked out before a new CBA is signed.