No progress made in negotiations for contract



A concept the players association contends is a salary cap, will never be accepted.
NEW YORK (AP) -- Three negotiating sessions in six weeks failed to bring the NHL and the players association any closer to labor peace.
Now, less than a month remains before a season-threatening lockout is expected to be imposed.
"We're all aware of the timeline," NHLPA senior director Ted Saskin said Tuesday after a five-hour meeting in New Jersey. "At our end, we're working hard toward doing what we can to get to a fair agreement for both sides, and we're going to continue in that direction."
The NHLPA formally rejected six proposed concepts put forth by the league that were discussed in two previous meetings. Talks then shifted to a general discussion of league, and specific team economics and operations.
Statement
"Today can be more fairly characterized as a side step in the process," Saskin said. "We'll have further discussions so that hopefully we can find areas where we are in agreement and build from there."
The next talks will take place over two days next week in Ottawa, then resume Aug. 30 and Sept. 1 in Montreal, the site of World Cup of Hockey games on those nights.
The two-week tournament, a joint venture between the NHL and the NHLPA, concludes Sept. 14. The current contract between the league and its players expires the next day.
"We told the players association that we would make ourselves available every day between now and the end of the collective bargaining agreement to try to get this resolved," said Bill Daly, the NHL's chief legal officer.
"To us, there's nothing more important. ... While, obviously, we both want the World Cup to be successful, it should be secondary to the overriding objective which is to spend as much time as is necessary to try to talk this through and get a resolution."
Saskin also expressed a willingness to have regular meetings before the deadline. But as each fruitless session wraps up, a hockey shutdown becomes more likely.
Stark reality
"I would not characterize today's meeting as having made any progress in any direction," he said.
Neither the NHL's six proposed concepts nor the NHLPA's framework that was put forth in a meeting last Oct. 1 were discussed Tuesday. Instead of furthering discussions in those areas, known to be of little interest to the opposing side, the talks took a new course.
"They said they wanted to get a better understanding of our views with respect to how the system impacts the way our teams operate," Daly said.
So much of the dispute boils down to philosophical differences. The NHLPA contends that the six concepts floated by the NHL contain a salary cap, an idea the union says it will never accept.
Daly countered that only one proposal is based on a salary-cap structure, and feels the sides have differing views of what constitutes a salary cap.
"My view is a maximum team payroll that applies to all the teams," he said. "Apparently they have changed that traditional definition of a salary cap. ... I think anything that's not the status quo, they believe is a salary cap."
The Big Three is now Vijay Singh, Phil Mickelson and Ernie Els, even though Woods remains No. 1 in the ranking.
Copyright 2004 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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