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'No sign of progress' in NHL lockout talks

NEW YORK (AFP) –

The NHL has already canceled the first 326 games scheduled through November 30

Commissioner Gary Bettman of the National Hockey League leaves the podium after addressing the media at Crowne Plaza Times Square, in September, in New York City. NHL club owners and players finished a fourth consecutive day of talks on Friday with no sign of progress toward ending a lockout that is to reach its 56th day.

National Hockey League club owners and players finished a fourth consecutive day of talks with no sign of progress toward ending a lockout that will reach its 56th day on Saturday.

Both sides have been deadlocked on how to divide $3.3 billion in revenues since their collective bargaining agreement expired on September 15, but talks were expected to continue on Saturday.

“Whatever it takes, we’re available,” NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said on Friday .

The NHL, which lost the entire 2004-2005 season to a bitter labor dispute, has already canceled the first 326 games scheduled through November 30, along with the Winter Classic outdoor game that was to be held on New Year’s Day.

Union executive director Don Fehr sent a memo to players Thursday night saying there was a “significant gap” over some issues, although he said on Friday that the sides might not be as far apart as owners might think.

Fehr’s memo, obtained and released by US NHL telecaster NBC, said revenue sharing plans need “considerable work” and there was a major gap in dealing with existing contracts under tighter new salary cap rules that owners seek.

Fehr says that players are offering between $948 million and $1.25 billion in salary concessions over five years.

“The concessions on future salary we have offered are not enough,” Fehr wrote. “We are still being told that more salaries must be conceded and that very valuable player contracting rights must be surrendered.

“While some steps are being taken, there is still a lot of work to be done and bridges to be crossed before an agreement can be made.”

Players, who made 57 percent of revenue in the prior union deal, were being asked by owners to agree to an immediate 50-50 split if current contracts were being paid in full.

The union said earlier this week it did not want to reach 50-50 until the third year of a new deal and Fehr’s memo said he was concerned about owners wanting to limit contracts to five years and change salary arbitration as well as push free agency for players to eight years after they arrive in the league.

“Each is bad for players,” Fehr wrote. “Taken together they would significantly reduce a player’s bargaining power and give the owners more leverage over a player for most if not all of his career.”

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