Newspaper article The Canadian Press

NHL-NHLPA Reach Important Stage of Talks on Collective Bargaining Agreement

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

NHL-NHLPA Reach Important Stage of Talks on Collective Bargaining Agreement

Article excerpt

NHL talks head into uncertain phase


TORONTO - Where do we go from here?

As the NHL and NHL Players' Association resume collective bargaining talks, that is the question they're both seeking to answer.

The sides stepped away from negotiations last week with competing bids on the table and no clear road ahead. They spoke again over the weekend and agreed to devote sessions Wednesday and Thursday entirely to core economic issues -- the area where the parties seem to have the most ground to make up.

"We are hoping that our meetings this week can serve as a jumping off point for further discussion and negotiation over the critical economic and system issues that we need to resolve in order to reach an agreement," deputy commissioner Bill Daly said Tuesday in an email.

Essentially, it's time to see how much each side is willing to move off its current position, if at all.

Donald Fehr spent the time between negotiating sessions holding regional player meetings -- first in Chicago and then in Kelowna, B.C. After wrapping up his session there Tuesday, the NHLPA's executive director was measured in his assessment of the talks to come.

"The task is to try and find a way to make an agreement if that's something that the owners are inclined to do," Fehr told reporters. "I hope that they are and we'll see how it goes."

While a significant gap exists between the two proposals when it comes to the amount of money available to players, there is some common ground. The union's decision to keep a hard salary cap in place was an important step in the process and its willingness to accept less than 57 per cent of revenues -- for three years, anyway -- seemed to indicate it was trying to work with the NHL.

Even though commissioner Gary Bettman offered a cold public response to the union's "alternate view," some close to the talks believe it was a step in the right direction. Now who takes the next step (or two)?

The owners will almost certainly seek to get more money back than the players initially offered and they are said to have no interest in the fourth year of that proposal, which called for the system to snap back to its current position. …

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