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NHL Lockout Day 1: Talking to the fans, not each other

By Stu Hackel

While neither side in the NHL's lockout of the players had anything to say at midnight when the CBA expired, on Sunday the messaging war began.

The league issued the following statement at 9 AM on NHL.com:

"Despite the expiration of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, the National Hockey League has been, and remains, committed to negotiating around the clock to reach a new CBA that is fair to the Players and to the 30 NHL teams.

"Thanks to the conditions fostered by seven seasons under the previous CBA, competitive balance has created arguably the most meaningful regular season in pro sports; a different team has won the Stanley Cup every year; fans and sponsors have agreed the game is at its best, and the League has generated remarkable growth and momentum. While our last CBA negotiation resulted in a seismic change in the League's economic system, and produced corresponding on-ice benefits, our current negotiation is focused on a fairer and more sustainable division of revenues with the Players -- as well as other necessary adjustments consistent with the objectives of the economic system we developed jointly with the NHL Players' Association seven years ago. Those adjustments are attainable through sensible, focused negotiation -- not through rhetoric.

"This is a time of year for all attention to be focused on the ice, not on a meeting room. The League, the Clubs and the Players all have a stake in resolving our bargaining issues appropriately and getting the puck dropped as soon as possible. We owe it to each other, to the game and, most of all, to the fans."

That was followed at around 1 p.m. Sunday afternoon by the release of this very slickly produced video by the NHLPA:

On their websites, many clubs re-ran the league's message. A third of them -- Columbus, Dallas, Edmonton, Florida, Minnesota, Islanders, Phoenix, St. Louis, San Jose and Vancouver -- crafted messages of their own to fans and sponsors. Some teams that felt they made major offseason strides reinforced that narrative in their communiqu├ęs.

It's rare that the clubs or team executives have said anything at all about the talks or the lockout -- they have been prohibited by the NHL from making statements under the threat of a million-dollar fine. It's quite possible that all these messages had to be cleared by the league office prior to publication.

As for the owners and players speaking to each other about reaching a new collective bargaining agreement, there were no formal talks today and none are scheduled.

Katie Strang of ESPN New York tweeted that a phone discussion between NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly and NHLPA special counsel Steve Fehr took place sometime Sunday and that they plan to speak again Tuesday evening. These two have kept the lines of communication open even as the sides have remain committed to their now-entrenched positions.

But as for anything productive coming from their chat, RDS's Renaud Lavoie tweeted, "Nothing new to report."

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