They first talked for more than five hours, in groups large and small. They took a break for dinner, then met again until midnight, looking for a way to resolve their differences and save the NHL season.
On Tuesday six NHL owners and 18 players engaged in collective bargaining meetings at a Manhattan hotel. As the hours passed, optimism began to build that a breakthrough in the stalled labor talks might have been achieved and some solid traction built.
At the end of the marathon day, NHLPA special counsel Steve Fehr and NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly addressed the media at the same time, side by side. That was a first in these oft-contentious CBA talks filled with verbal sniping.
Fehr called is a "constructive day," adding, "It may have been the best day we've had so far." He cautioned that he didn't want "to paint too rosy a picture" and that a lot of work still needed to be done.
Daly thanked the owners and players for participating in the meetings, saying, "I think everybody wants to get a deal done and that's encouraging."
Neither Steve Fehr nor Daly offered any details about the meeting.
It was NHL commissioner Gary Bettman's request that the two groups get together -- that after federal mediators failed to make a difference. He would sit out the meeting, as would NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr -- just players and owners in the room, in a dialogue.
It was unusual, and no one was sure how long it might last or how productive it might be.
"I'm hoping we get to where we need to be," Bettman told reporters before the meeting.
The NHL's board of governors meets Wednesday at 11 a.m. in New York. Another owners/players session will be held before the governors meeting.
The owners in the room Tuesday were: Ron Burkle (Pittsburgh Penguins), Murray Edwards (Calgary Flames), Jeremy Jacobs (Boston Bruins), Mark Chipman (Winnipeg Jets), Larry Tanenbaum (Toronto Maple Leafs) and Jeff Vinik (Tampa Bay Lightning).
Among the players representing the NHLPA were Penguins star Sidney Crosby, Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews, and Buffalo Sabres goalie Ryan Miller. Another was Los Angeles Kings forward Kevin Westgarth, who lives in Raleigh in the offseason and is the son-in-law of former Pittsburgh Steelers coach Bill Cowher.
Jacobs and Edwards had been active in previous collective bargaining negotiations, but the other four owners were making their first appearance. Crosby has participated in other CBA sessions, but Miller, an outspoken type, wanted to take part in Tuesday's meeting.
Tuesday marked the 80th day of the lockout, which began Sept. 16. The league has canceled all regular-season games through Dec. 14 and could soon chop off another block of games. The 2013 Winter Classic has been canceled. So has the 2013 All-Star Game.
The league is seeking a 50-50 split of annual hockey-related revenue (HRR) -- the players were getting 57 percent in the previous CBA -- while the players want all existing contracts honored and have taken issue with other concessions proposed by the league.