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NHL disappointed with counteroffers from players

TORONTO -- NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said Thursday that talks to end the lockout of players and salvage a full season were “not progressing,” based on the latest counterproposals from players.

The two sides met for just over an hour Thursday at players union headquarters.

Bettman indicated the league was disappointed by the players' response to a National Hockey League proposal made on Tuesday, which offered a 50-50 split of hockey-related revenues if a contract can be agreed by early November — in time to allow for a full season.

“None of the three variations of players' share that they gave us even began to approach 50-50 (revenue split) either at all or for some long period of time, and it's clear that we're not speaking the same language in terms of what they came back to us with,” Bettman said.

“It is still my hope that we can accomplish my goal, the League's goal of getting an 82-game (per team) season, but I am concerned based on the proposal that was made today that things are not progressing.”

NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said one of the players' proposals, touted as including a 50-50 revenue split, did not because of additional conditions.

“It is not a 50-50 deal,” Daly said. “It is, most likely a 56- to 57-percent (for players) deal in Year One and never gets to 50 percent during the proposed five-year term of the agreement.

“The proposal contemplates paying the players approximately US$650 million outside of the players' share,” Daly said. “In effect, the union is proposing to change the accounting rules to be able to say '50-50,' when in reality it is not. The Union told us that they had not yet 'run the numbers.' We did.”

However, players union chief Don Fehr said the latest NHL proposal still represents huge reductions in player salaries.

Talks on a new collective bargaining agreement have been stalled largely over how to divide US$3.2 billion in hockey-related revenues, and owners locked out players on Sept. 15.

Players had received 57 percent under the old deal. Owners had asked for at least 53 percent under a new agreement, until their 50-50 proposal on Tuesday.

That came a week after the league announced the cancellation of 82 games scheduled for the first fortnight of the season, which was originally slated to start on Oct. 11.

Despite cancelling those games, Bettman said the league could complete a full season — 82 games per team — if they get underway in early November.

The NHL lost its entire 2004-05 season to a similar dispute.

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