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NHL, players resume cordial labour talks in New York

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Associated Press
7/18/2012 8:11:31 PM
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NEW YORK -- The NHL and the NHL Players' Association resumed labour talks at the league offices in New York on Wednesday.

The two sides held a cordial meeting for more than two hours in another round of negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement before the current one expires on Sept. 15.

Executive Director Donald Fehr said the NHLPA has not yet decided to make a counteroffer to the league's initial proposal last week.

"We requested further information," Fehr said. "The initial proposal we are looking hard at.

"We're not at that stage (to submit a counter) yet. At the appropriate point in time, we'll make our proposal."

There were multiple reports coming out of the last round of talks that the owners' offer included players' hockey-related revenues get slashed from 57 per cent to 46 per cent. It also was reported that players would be forced to wait 10 years before becoming unrestricted free agents and that contracts would be limited to five years.

Fehr said the NHLPA would submit a proposal "at the appropriate point in time." He did not specify when that would be.

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said the league's offer last week was a "serious proposal."

"We have a lot of work to do," Bettman said, "and a relatively short time" to get a deal done.

The two sides will meet again Thursday and Friday in New York. They are also scheduled to meet Tuesday, Thursday and Friday in Toronto at the NHLPA offices next week.

"There is a dialogue going on," Bettman said. "(We're) focused on making a deal. Focused on getting a deal done."

Bettman oversaw the 1994-95 NHL lockout that delayed the start of the season and forced a 48-game regular-season schedule. When labour problems lingered in 2004-05, Bettman shut down the league. It took years for the NHL to recover from the lost season.

Wednesday's session was well attended by players, including New York Rangers forward Brandon Dubinsky.

"Like anything, it is a negotiation. (We) have to work with them," Dubinsky said. "(It's been) cordial. That's the way it should be. There hasn't been any hostility."

Dubinsky was joined by New York teammate Henrik Lundqvist, as well as Patrice Bergeron (Bruins), Jason Chimera (Capitals), Rick DiPietro (Islanders), Kyle Okposo (Islanders), Manny Malhotra (Canucks), Kevin Shattenkirk (Blues), James van Riemsdyk (Maple Leafs), Antoine Vermette (Coyotes), Kevin Westgarth (Kings), Dan Winnik (Sharks), J.T. Wyman (Lightning), and Philadelphia's Scott Hartnell and Ruslan Fedotenko.

"(I) don't have any expectations," Fehr said. "Things move at their own pace."

Fehr is very protective of the players' prerogatives under the National Labor Relations Act. He believes players are effectively 50-50 partners with owners over anything that affects their work rules, such as realignment, which stalled last season after the players' association refused to agree to the changes.

The NHL regular season is slated to start on Oct. 11.

Don Fehr (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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