Stalled labor negotiations could resume Friday
NEW YORK (AP) -- While the NHL and the players' association stay away from the negotiating table, discussions have taken place behind the scenes in an effort to restart talks as a lockout deadline looms.
NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly and NHLPA special counsel Steve Fehr have discussed procedural details that could soon lead to a continuation of negotiations that broke off last week -- perhaps as early as this week.
The current collective bargaining agreement between the NHL and the NHL Players' Association expires on Sept. 15, and NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman has said he will impose a lockout then if a new deal hasn't been reached.
"From our perspective, there has been a sense of urgency all summer," Daly said in an email to The Associated Press, "but, obviously, it becomes more real as we get closer to September 15 with no meaningful progress being made."
The first NHL preseason games are scheduled to begin Sept. 19, with the regular season slated to open on Oct. 11 with four games.
The NHL canceled the entire 2004-05 season and playoffs before the current deal with the union was finally hammered out in July 2005.
Donald Fehr, executive director of the NHL Players' Association, told The Canadian Press that he stopped drawing a salary on July 1.
"It's both a measure of solidarity and uniformity of interest," Fehr told CP on Thursday. "You want the players to understand you're in the same boat they are. You don't have interests different than they do. We think it's important."
Talks broke off last week when the NHLPA responded to an offer from the NHL with changes to an earlier proposal.
The union's most recent offer came three days after the NHL made its first counterproposal last Tuesday. After asking the players to cut their share of hockey revenue from 57 to 43 percent, the NHL upped its proposal to have the players get a 46 percent share over a six-year deal.
The union revised its initial offer by proposing to restructure the fourth and final year of its initial offer. The NHLPA was willing to give back between $465 million and $800 million in revenue over the first three years of the deal as long as the system switched back to the existing agreement in the fourth year.
Donald Fehr countered by proposing "several concepts" in which the players would get less than 57 percent of revenues in the fourth and final year. The NHLPA, however, is still asking NHL owners to establish a revenue sharing program to help struggling teams.
Bettman called revenue sharing "a distraction" and questioned whether the union made an actual counterproposal or a mere response to the league's presentation.
As for further talks, Bettman said then that he didn't see a need to continue negotiations until new ideas can be brought to the table.
"What I thought was a promising week ended with disappointment," Bettman said on Friday.
The union has questioned the NHL as to why it is attempting to have players bear much of the burden of cost savings, especially after the league reported record revenues topping $3.1 billion last season.
Aside from asking the players to take an across-the-board cut in their share of revenues, the NHL is also seeking to place severe limits on free agency while also abolishing players' rights to salary arbitration.
The NHL has had three labor disputes since April 1, 1992, when players held a 10-day strike that forced 30 games to be rescheduled. The most recent two were lockouts.
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