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NHL, players return to bargaining

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman leaves following labor talks

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman leaves following labor talks in New York on Nov. 9, 2012. Credit: AP

The good news on the NHL front: The sides are still swapping proposals to end the lockout.

With a deadline looming to salvage at least a 48-game season, the NHL Tuesday night presented a response to Monday's counteroffer on a new collective-bargaining agreement by the players association, and the union was reviewing it before resuming discussions Wednesday.

"They made a comprehensive response, we have to go through the document and see what the appropriate thing is to do next," union executive director Donald Fehr said about 10 p.m. after meeting with league negotiators. He said he expected to meet Wednesday.

Negotiators for the NHL, including commissioner Gary Bettman, and the NHLPA had met at league offices in Manhattan Tuesday for the second day ending about 5 p.m. to discuss revenue-sharing and pension issues. Bettman said there was movement in the PA's direction in some areas, agreements in others and no answers on other issues. "We're not keeping score," he said. "We're just trying to get an agreement done."

It was the first time since Dec. 13 that the two leaders had met face to face for consecutive days. The pressure is on because a drop-dead date is looming. "We need to drop the puck by Jan. 19 if we're going to play a 48-game season," Bettman reiterated Monday night. With the need for training camps, an agreement would have to be forged by Jan. 11. Some players are returning from Europe. Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist tweeted Tuesday that he is returning from Sweden.

Although the league and the players have agreed on a 50-50 share of hockey-related revenue, issues remain. The owners are proposing a prorated $70.2-million salary cap this season, and a $60-million cap in 2013-14, based on $3.3 billion in revenues in 2011-12. The players want a higher cap in '13-14, and a limit to their annual escrow payments. The owners also have proposed a 10-year CBA, with an eight-year opt-out. The union has proposed an eight-year deal.

NHL officials had reviewed the players' counteroffer of about 30 pages. The amended NHL offer, close to 300 pages, and which included some softened stances on contracts and buyouts, was sent to the union late Thursday.

In all, 625 regular-season games have been canceled (through Jan. 14), including Tuesday's Winter Classic. Since the lockout began Sept. 15, it has cost players six of their 13 paychecks.

New York Sports