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Upbeat labor talks between NHL owners, players

There were different participants at the bargaining table Tuesday in New York, and they created some cautious optimism in the NHL labor dispute.

There were different participants at the bargaining table Tuesday in New York, and they created some cautious optimism in the NHL labor dispute.

One of the new voices, Pittsburgh Penguins co-owner Ron Burkle, reportedly made his presence felt at the first session, which lasted nearly 51/2 hours before a dinner break. Burkle's input drew upbeat reviews from the players, sending more positive vibes than at any point in the work stoppage.

For the first time in the 80-day lockout, a meeting included some players and owners. There were 18 players, six owners, Bill Daly, the NHL's deputy commissioner, and Steve Fehr, special counsel for the players' union.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and NHLPA boss Donald Fehr - the respective leaders who have thus far been ineffective in the negotiations - were not present. It was a frustrated Bettman who suggested the leaders not attend, trying a different approach in hopes it would end the labor war.

Donald Fehr huddled with the players during the dinner break.

No Flyers were at the meetings, which included stars such as Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby, Chicago's Jonathan Toews, Buffalo's Ryan Miller and Tampa Bay's Martin St. Louis.

The owners who attended included hard-liners Jeremy Jacobs of Boston and Murray Edwards of Calgary. The other owners who were there were Winnipeg's Mark Chipman, Toronto's Larry Tanenbaum and Tampa Bay's Jeff Vinik.

A year ago, the NBA ratified a new collective bargaining agreement on Dec. 8 and started the season on Christmas. Optimists were hopeful the NHL could follow a similar path. Cynics pointed out that the NBA and its union already had a tentative agreement in place last year on Nov. 25.

The last NHL lockout that ended with an in-season agreement was in 1994-95. That season, a settlement was reached on Jan. 11 and a 48-game season was salvaged.

The NHL, which has canceled games though Dec. 14, and the players are battling over numerous issues, including how to divide hockey-related revenue, free agency, arbitration, length of individual contracts, and length of the new agreement.

The NHL Board of Governors meeting will be Wednesday in New York, and the owners could select a drop-dead date for when the season cannot be saved. They could also cancel more games, though that may not happen because of Tuesday's progress.

Ed Snider, the Flyers' chairman and founder, Peter Luukko, president of the Flyers' parent company, Comcast-Spectacor, and general manager Paul Holmgren are expected to attend the meeting.

Junior national picks. Forward John Gaudreau, the pride of Gloucester Catholic and a 2011 Calgary Flames draftee, was named to the preliminary U.S. junior national team, which also includes defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere, the Flyers' third-round pick last June.