Ron Burkle, co-owner of the Pittsburgh Penguins, said in a statement that he was disappointed with the abrupt fracture in talks between players and owners, which ended with the NHLPA's proposal being rejected by the league and the league pulling previous offers from the table.
Burkle said that he felt a deal was within reach when talks dissolved on Thursday:
We understood and appreciated their situation. We came back with an aggressive commitment to pensions which we felt was well received. We needed a response on key items that were important to us, but we were optimistic that we were down to very few issues. I believe a deal was within reach.
We were therefore surprised when the Fehrs made a unilateral and "non-negotiable" decision — which is their right, to end the player/owner process that has moved us farther in two days than we moved at any time in the past months.
Burkle's statement is against what Commissioner Gary Bettman said: Bettman indicated that he felt a deal was never close to being achieved, and that the union's insistence that there was something close would only create false hope amongst fans. It's also against what's widely believed about the course of events Thursday, as Burkle seems to say that the NHLPA was responsible for the decision to end meetings, which most have attributed to a decision by Bettman and the owners to reject a proposal by the players.
Burkle expressed gratitude to the players for their effort and remained hopeful that a deal could be put in place soon.