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NHL, players' union open labor negotiations

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman speaks to reporters in

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman speaks to reporters in Glendale, Ariz., before a hockey game between the Vancouver Canucks and the Phoenix Coyotes. (March 8, 2011) Credit: AP

The NHL and its players association met for roughly two hours Friday at the league offices in New York, the first of what likely will be numerous sessions as the league works toward a new collective-bargaining agreement and tries to avoid the acrimony that marked the last CBA talks, which led to a lockout by the owners that killed the 2004-05 season. The CBA expires Sept. 15.

"The meeting was very cordial and we hope it was constructive," NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said in a statement. "Before breaking, the parties discussed follow-up steps and confirmed plans for future meetings. We have nothing further to report at this time."

Daly, commissioner Gary Bettman and several owners were on hand for the league. Players Association head Don Fehr and eight players from the PA's executive committee attended. Islanders star John Tavares, at 21 the youngest member of the executive committee, did not attend Friday's session but will be at future sessions.

"I hope to be in this league a long time, and this greatly affects me and all the other young players in this league," Tavares told Newsday Friday. "I think we're coming into these meetings with an open mind and we're anxious to have a fair deal worked out."

Fehr issued his own statement: "Following [Friday's] meeting, we will review the NHL's initial presentation with the players' committee before reconvening for further talks later next week."

Among the issues believed to be on the table are the share of hockey-related revenue the players receive (currently it's 57 percent), the salary-cap floor (currently it's $16 million below the cap, too high for some of the low-revenue teams), revenue-sharing and supplementary discipline.

Tavares said he's tried to stay involved with the PA since he came into the league in 2009. He began attending meetings regarding negotiations last year, when Fehr was hired. Teammate Rick DiPietro and the Rangers' Martin Biron, Brandon Dubinsky and Ruslan Fedotenko also are on the 31-player committee.

"I think it's good to have some younger guys involved and not just the veterans who have been through this before," Tavares said. "We're all part of the league and we all have a stake in the future of this league."

New York Sports