TORONTO (AFP) –
The National Hockey league offered to split hockey revenue 50-50 with players Tuesday in a new proposal aimed at ending an ongoing contract dispute in time for each team to play a full 82-game season.
The proposal announced by NHL commissioner Gary Bettman comes one month after the league locked out players and less than a fortnight after the NHL cancelled regular-season games scheduled for October 11-24.
Bettman said a full season could still be played, however, if a deal is done in time to begin the season in early November.
“We very much want to preserve a full 82-game season and in that light we made a proposal, an offer really,” Bettman said.
“It is our best shot at preserving an 82-game regular season and playoffs.”
Bettman and deputy commissioner Bill Daly met Tuesday with NHL Players Association executive director Don Fehr and special counsel Steve Fehr at the union’s office.
“The reaction was they need to study it,” Bettman said. “I respect that portion of the process. They have got to understand the offer and get comfortable with it.”
Bettman said the offer would split hockey-related revenue at 50-50 and wouldn’t include salary rollbacks.
“We’re focused on getting the season started on November 2,” Bettman said. “That’s what this offer was about.”
To fit in a full season, teams would have to play one extra game every five weeks over the original schedule.
Talks on a new collective bargaining agreement have been stalled on how to divide $3.2 billion in hockey-related revenues and owners locked out players on September 15.
Last week, when the league announced the cancellation of the 82 games scheduled for the first fortnight of the season, Don Fehr criticized the league sharply for a move that he said punished fans.
The NHL lost its entire 2004-05 season to a similar dispute.