NHL, NHLPA Meetings Held in Not-So-Neutral Territory

By Emma Harger
Times Square is home to many things, including the site of the negotiations between the NHL and NHLPA. Photo by Eborutta on Wikimedia Commons.

The marathon meetings between the NHL and NHLPA this week, which will stretch into a fourth consecutive day on Nov. 9, have been shrouded in mystery. Both sides of the talks have been rather tight-lipped in terms of talking about anything specific going on in the meetings, preferring to release prepared statements known for their brevity in which they talk of progress and future meetings.

It’s led to many hockey reporters explaining that perhaps this lack of talking means good things, progress, hope for an abbreviated 2012-13 season and the end of the third lockout in NHL history. Then, of course, the fans start to get more hopeful.

We might not know the full details of what is going on in the room, but we do now know where the room is–and it is not exactly in a neutral location.

Multiple sources, including Katie Strang of ESPN, reported that the location of these talks is Manhattan law firm Proskauer Rose. Established in 1875, Proskauer Rose has many interests and offices, but is especially known for its sports law department. All four of the major North American sports leagues are among its clients. The firm’s New York office recently moved to the new high-rise at 11 Times Square, where their offices occupy 14 floors and the firm’s name is in huge letters on the building’s facade. (That particular building is rather fancy–completed in 2010, its site advertises itself as “if Einstein created an office building” and reportedly there are plans to build an aquarium on the bottom floors.)

Also, back in his law-practicing days, a man named Gary Bettman worked for Proskauer Rose, as did NBA commissioner David Stern.

These days, among Proskauer Rose’s staff is Bob Batterman, who represents the NHL and was part of the team behind the 2004-05 lockout. The NFL retained him as part of their legal team during their lockout in 2010. He has a sort of reputation for being the lockout specialist, a reputation with which he vehemently disagrees.

Of all the places in Manhattan to pick for these negotiations, it seems a little unusual that the venue would end up being the law offices where the commissioner used to work and where the “lockout specialist” is now. Consider the fact that there are many, many hotels around Manhattan with meeting spaces. The hotel can choose to not publicize information about who rented the meeting room for the day, although if journalists were able to find out about Proskauer Rose, it would be a matter of time before they found out about, say, the Hilton Garden Inn Times Square or the loftily-named Dream Downtown.

One can only hope that these meetings, even if they’re happening in a not-so-neutral place, can produce some meaningful results.

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