Changing the faces at the NHL bargaining table so far appears to be having the desired effect.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and union executive director Donald Fehr have stayed out of negotiations for the past two days as owners and players try to end the 82-day lockout that has forced cancellation of nearly one-third of the regular season.
But while the tone of the sound bites has been more upbeat than usual over the last 48 hours, the rank-and-file say they are keeping their hopes in check.
"Until they get this thing signed, sealed and delivered, I'm not getting excited," Sharks defenseman Dan Boyle said Wednesday in a text.
Added veteran forward Patrick Marleau: "I wouldn't say I'm more optimistic, but it's good that there is a dialogue."
The dialogue behind closed doors in a New York hotel is a direct exchange between six owners hand-picked by Bettman and as many as 18 players, with no Shark on either side. All are trying to avoid the consequences of losing an entire season for the second time in eight years.
"We are pleased with the process that is ongoing. And out of respect for that process, I don't have anything else to say," Bettman said after Wednesday morning's NHL governors' meeting.
That meeting -- with general manager Doug Wilson and chief counsel John Tortora both representing the Sharks -- came after more than eight hours of negotiations Tuesday. After the governors were briefed, labor talks continued the rest of the day.
Each side's second-in-command, NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly and union special counsel Steve Fehr, have been at the table. The fact that the two were sharing a podium late Tuesday was seen as a symbolic breakthrough.
"Might be the best day we've had, still a lot of work to be done," Steve Fehr said before adding he didn't want to "paint too rosy of a picture."
Daly noted that he thought "everyone wants to get a deal done, so that's encouraging."
Some 422 regular-season games through Dec. 14 have been canceled and Bettman has ruled out a full 82-game season. But the league has not set an absolute deadline before the entire 2012-13 season -- as well as projected revenues of more than $3 billion -- will be lost.
Multiple reports from New York say the goal is to have a new agreement in place by Friday, but history shows more time is available. The entire 2004-05 season was not canceled until Feb. 16; when a 48-game season was salvaged in 1995, that announcement came Jan. 11.
Few specifics of the latest proposals were leaked, but several reports said the NHL was seeking a 10-year agreement.
The two sides had agreed to a 50-50 split of hockey revenue, but they could not agree how to reach that divide from the previous agreement that gave players 57 percent. Also, players want existing contracts to be fully honored. Other divisive issues include limits on the length of contracts and free agent eligibility.
Media accounts of the sessions give much credit for whatever progress is being made to the Pittsburgh Penguins, with co-owner Ron Burkle and captain Sidney Crosby displaying leadership abilities.
Other NHL owners at the table are Jeremy Jacobs of the Boston Bruins, Mark Chipman of the Winnipeg Jets, Murray Edwards of the Calgary Flames, Larry Tannenbaum of the Toronto Maple Leafs and Jeff Vinik of the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Other players included Craig Adams, David Backes, Michael Cammalleri, Chris Campoli, B.J. Crombeen, Mathieu Darche, Shane Doan, Ron Hainsey, Shawn Horcoff, Jamal Mayers, Manny Malhotra, Ryan Miller, George Parros, Brad Richards, Martin St. Louis, Jonathan Toews, Kevin Westgarth and Daniel Winnik.
For more on the Sharks, see David Pollak's Working the Corners blog at blogs.mercurynews.com/sharks.