NEW YORK (AP) - Donald Fehr thought he and the hockey players he leads were close to a deal to save the season. The NHL said not so fast, and then took away everything that created all the optimism in the first place.
When the 82nd day of the lockout was over, it was hard not to think the sides were thrown back to the very start of the fight. The problem is this is not the summer or even October. It's December, and there isn't much time left to reach the elusive deal and get back on the ice.
Most of Thursday, NHL negotiators waited for the players' association to wrap up internal discussions and get back to them regarding a proposal the league made Wednesday night. Owners greatly increased the amount of dollars they were willing to pay on the "make-whole" provision to compensate players in transitioning to the new collective bargaining agreement.
But that price came with a cost: Three conditions the NHL required the players to agree to if they wanted the influx of funds. The league wasn't looking to negotiate on those points on Thursday. It wanted a yes or no answer.
When management didn't get it, negotiators got up after only an hour together and left.
Fehr didn't take that as a negative response when he stood in front of a large throng of reporters in a Manhattan hotel and proclaimed that agreements had been all but reached on key issues, and a full deal could be reached in short order.
"If we can get a positive response and conclude this, hopefully it doesn't take long," Fehr said.
Then things took a wild and unprecedented turn.