Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeffrey Vinik is said to be an important ally in brokering a deal between the NHL and NHL Players Association. - Clark Brooks
Though Pittsburgh Penguins owner Ron Burkle and captain Sidney Crosby are getting much praise for progress today with talks between teh NHL and the NHLPA, Tampa Bay officials have been major allies.
The owner-player meeting in New York is ongoing as I write this post. It had briefly adjourned for a little more than an hour for dinner at around 7:30 PM EST. At that point news started to leak about the meetings and a general positive vibe was coming from it.
Focus of reports cited the Pittsburgh Penguins - owner Ronald Burkle and captain Sidney Crosby - as being integral characters to trying to bridge the divide. That was their task, and it was laid out weeks ago as talks proved not to be progressing.
Among the other owners in the talks Tuesday was Tampa Bay's Jeff Vinik, who has become a favorite of Burkle and Lemieux since Vinik purchased the Lightning in February 2010. Lemieux has discussed ways to end the lockout with Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman, a fellow Hockey Hall of Famer, the sources said.
If these sources are right, it clarifies how Jeff Vinik ended up in today's meeting. Burkle would hold more sway than Vinik by himself... Vinik, who had been in Boston for much of his professional career, is known and respected by Boston Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs (who is the central figure from the owners position).
Regardless when an official end to tonight's talks happens, a press conference has been scheduled for 1 PM EST by Commissioner Bettman.