NHL, union meet for 3 1/2 hours

December 14, 2004

TORONTO (AP) - The NHL and the players' association met for 3 1/2 hours Tuesday in the second negotiating session in less than a week.

Details of the meeting, in which the NHL was expected to make a counterproposal to the union, were not immediately available. Both the league and the players' association scheduled news conferences for later Thursday, the 90th day of the lockout.

The union planned a conference call with every team's player representative after the meeting, a players' association official told The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity.

The sides resumed talks at 1 p.m., with the league reportedly poised to reject the latest offer by the union, which featured a 24-percent salary rollback but no linkage between revenues and player salaries, which the union deems a salary cap and unacceptable.


The Canadian sports television network TSN reported Monday that NHL executive vice president Bill Daly told the 30 team owners the league will turn down the union's offer made last week. TSN cited a memo from Daly to the owners.

"While the immediate 'rollback' of 24 percent offered by the union would materially improve league economics for the 2004-05 season, there is virtually nothing in the union's proposal that would prevent the dollars 'saved' from being redirected right back into the player compensation system, such that the league's overall financial losses would approach current levels in only a matter of a couple of years," Daly said in Sunday's memo.

The league wants cost certainty, a system that will provide a direct link between revenues and player costs. The players' association might quickly break off talks if the NHL's proposal includes that.

If that happens, the NHL will be closer to becoming the first North American sports league to lose an entire season to a labor dispute. There might be a month left to salvage the season. The last NHL lockout ended with a deal on Jan. 11, 1995, allowing for a 48-game season to be played.

But the sides might be too far apart to get a season in this time. The memo obtained by TSN "cynically" questioned the motives of the NHLPA's salary rollback offer.

"We believe the Union's offer was more about trying to unify the players and ensure player solidarity with what they would perceive as a very substantial proposal than it was about making a good faith effort to reach agreement with us," Daly reportedly wrote.

The players' proposal also contained a luxury tax, a revenue sharing plan, a lower cap on entry-level contracts and bonuses, and an offer to allow teams to take players to arbitration.

The NHL hasn't given the players' association an offer since July 21, when it presented six possible concepts to provide a framework for the league's first new collective bargaining agreement in a decade.

All six were formally rejected by the players on Aug. 17, and negotiations that followed over the next month failed to move the sides any closer to resolving the philosophical difference of a salary cap.

Talks broke off Sept. 9 when owners turned down an offer, and the lockout was imposed a week later by commissioner Gary Bettman. Players and owners stayed apart from early September until last Thursday.

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