Players make another offer to NHL

NEW YORK — A federal mediator rejoined negotiations between the NHL and the players’ association that stretched into the early hours of Thursday morning but still haven’t produced a deal to get hockey back on the ice.

After a series of meetings during the day Wednesday, the sides reconvened at night and were together until nearly 1 a.m.

The biggest news to come out of the talks was that the union didn’t inform the NHL that it was filing a disclaimer of interest before a self-imposed midnight deadline. Commissioner Gary Bettman said the topic never came up in discussions between the sides.

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The sides were asked by the mediator to return to the bargaining table Thursday morning.

Neither side would characterize the talks or address what, if any, progress has been made.

Bettman has told the union that a deal must be in place by Jan. 11 in order for a 48-game season to be played beginning eight days later.

Earlier Wednesday the players’ association delivered its latest counteroffer to the league as the two sides continued to try to resolve the lockout.

That made four offers between the sides since the NHL restarted the negotiation process last week with a new contract proposal. What has become a major point of contention is how a player’s pension will be funded.

A small group meeting on the pension issue was held Wednesday morning before the players’ association presented its latest offer to the league during a one-hour afternoon meeting. A group of players arrived at the NHL offices around 8 p.m. as the union and league prepared to meet again.

A deal can’t be done without a resolution on pensions.

The lockout has reached its 109th day. All games through Jan. 14 along with the All-Star Game have been canceled, claiming more than 50 percent of the original schedule.

Fehr believed an agreement on a players-funded pension had been reached before talks blew up in early December. That apparently wasn’t the case, or the NHL has changed its offer regarding the pension in exchange for agreeing to other things the union wanted.

The NHL proposed in its first offer last week that pension contributions come out of the players’ share of revenues, and $50 million of the league’s make-whole payment of $300 million will be allocated and set aside to fund potential underfunding liabilities of the plan at the end of the collective bargaining agreement.

Last month, the NHL agreed to raise its make-whole offer of deferred payments from $211 million to $300 million as part of a proposed package that required the union to agree on three nonnegotiable points. Instead, the players’ association accepted the raise in funds, but then made counterproposals on the issues the league stated had no wiggle room.

After the league countered with another offer Tuesday night, Bettman said the new proposal addressed specific areas the union requested.

‘‘There were certain things that the players’ association asked for that we agreed to. There were some things that we moved in their direction, and there were other things that we said no,’’ he said. ‘‘That’s part of the process.’’

But it’s a process that has limited time to be completed.

The NHL is the only North American professional sports league to cancel a season because of a labor dispute, losing the 2004-05 campaign to a lockout. A 48-game season was played in 1995 after a lockout stretched into January.