Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Meeting Today Called Key in Nhl Dispute

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Meeting Today Called Key in Nhl Dispute

Article excerpt

A ray of hope that an end to the National Hockey League lockout might be near emerged Wednesday, with one management source telling The Associated Press that it's possible the season could resume next month.

"If the talks continue this way, they could be playing hockey by the first of December," said the source, speaking on the condition he not be identified. "A lot will hinge on (today's) meeting."

Others were not as optimistic, but no one dismissed the possibility completely.

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and Bob Goodenow, NHL Players' Association head, met for seven hours Monday. Players have softened their stance against a rookie salary cap, the source said.

They are to meet today, possibly in Buffalo, N.Y. This marks the first time the sides have talked twice in one week since Oct. 4-5.

"There are still a lot of issues on the table," the source said. "Everything depends on how well the meeting goes (today). But the fact that they met Monday and are meeting again (today) is a major breakthrough. They did make some headway."

In an ESPN radio interview Wednesday, Brian Burke, vice president in charge of hockey operations for the NHL, said, "I am optimistic that a deal can be worked out in time to save the season."

It was a direct reversal of Burke's position last week, when he said he believed that the NHL was at risk of losing the season. "We will find out in the next couple of days whether there is momentum or not," Burke told The Canadian Press. "I think it is a real good start. It was the best discussion we had in months.

"The next meeting is key in my mind, because that good start could turn into momentum or it could grind to a halt."

Goodenow told The Canadian Press that "since the league rejected our last proposal on Oct. 10, we have not made another proposal - not at all."

The rookie salary-cap issue has been one of the major stumbling blocks in the owners' lockout that began Oct. …

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