TORONTO - With the current Canadian Football League collective bargaining agreement set to expire in mere hours, talks between the league and the Players Association stretched over 12 hours Wednesday in hopes of reaching a new deal.
Although neither side overtly stated any progress in negotiations, commissioner Mark Cohon told the media talks will resume Thursday at 9am ET.
"It's been a long day of meetings and we'll resume tomorrow," Cohon said shortly after 10pm ET. "And that's a good thing."
The current deal between the league and the union expires Thursday at midnight. A long day of talks can be interpreted as an encouraging sign after so much acrimony and frustration played out publicly when discussions broke down last week.
The league and union initially met around 10am ET, and the day was a steady stream of comings and goings. The league's representative, including Cohon, chief operation officer Michael Copeland, Saskatchewan Roughriders president Jim Hopson, Calgary Stampeders president Ken King, and CFL legal counsel Steve Shamie, left the meeting room a couple times before noon.
"We're still talking," is all Cohon said then.
"We're working hard," Hopson said. When asked later to give a "thumbs up" or "thumbs down" on how discussions were going, Hopson placed his bag on the ground and gave both.
The players, including union president Scott Flory, vice-presidents Marwan Hage and Jeff Keeping, treasurer Brian Ramsay and legal counsel Ed Molstad, remained in nearby meeting rooms for much of the day, breaking for dinner around 6pm ET.
Keeping, an offensive lineman with the Toronto Argonauts, said the players weren't considering any new proposal around dinnertime, but did expect to meet with the CFL by the end of the day. Molstad confirmed a "conciliation officer" was present to assist with negotiations throughout Wednesday.
At 7:30pm ET, the league's representatives returned to the meeting room to resume discussions with the union. The two sides met for about an hour before the league left once again.
"Going upstairs [to the league's room in the hotel] to talk," Cohon said at the time. Shamie and the mediator walked into the meeting room used by both parties at 9:45pm ET. Shamie later emerged and said the league and players were "still talking."
When asked if the two sides were any closer, the mediator just smiled and continued walking.
Cohon didn't answer questions from the media. The union didn't make any public statements.
Last week, the league quickly broke off scheduled talks with the union before making its proposal to the player's public.
The league's recently published proposal included a nine per cent increase to the current salary cap, taking it from $4.4 million to $4.8 million, along with a yearly $50,000 increase for five years (putting the cap at $5,050,000 at the end of a new deal).
The players published proposal included a $6.24 million initial salary cap, constructed primarily through a revenue-sharing model that would give the players 55 per cent of gross revenue from TV, internet and radio right, 45 per cent of gross sponsorship revenue, and 40 per cent of gross ticket revenue.
The league's representatives insisted then any revenue-sharing model the players requested would be bad for the CFL.
"In fact, (a revenue-sharing model) would threaten the very existence of the CFL," Cohon said in a statement to players and fans.
The only work stoppage in CFL history occurred in 1974, when three weeks of training camp were lost before a new agreement was signed and the regular season schedule started unaffected.