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NHL If there's no deal by weekend, hockey season is likely over



Published: Thu, February 10, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



The All-Star game would have been this weekend.

NEW YORK (AP) -- With just a little bit of hedging, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman all but issued a drop-dead date for saving what's left of the season: this weekend.

The lockout reached its 147th day Wednesday. If a deal is reached, Bettman said, there would be a 28-game regular season and the 16-team playoff structure would be preserved.

"It is clear to me that if we're not working on a written document by this weekend, I don't see how we can play any semblance of a season," Bettman said. "Obviously, we will listen to everything the union has to say, but we've given all we can give and gone as far as we can go."

Hours earlier, the players' association rejected what was described as a compromise proposal during a secret meeting in Toronto, NHL chief legal officer Bill Daly said.

Union head Bob Goodenow said the sides would meet again. The union asked Bettman and Daly to stay in Toronto through today for negotiating sessions.

"The prospect that we'd be able to conclude an agreement by the end of the weekend is very daunting," Goodenow said. "It is possible, but I don't want to discuss the levels of probability."

The lockout has wiped out 813 of the 1,230 regular season games, as well as this weekend's scheduled All-Star game.

Proposals

The NHL offered to go with the players' association proposal from Dec. 9 that featured a luxury-tax system and an immediate 24 percent rollback on all existing contracts.

But the league also put in place four different scenarios that would shift the agreement back to what the league proposed on Feb. 2 -- a salary cap that would force teams to spend at least $32 million on player costs but no more than $42 million, including benefits.

Also included in that six-year offer -- which could be reopened by the union after four years -- was a profit-sharing plan that would allow the players' association to evenly split revenues over a negotiated level with the league.

"The union's response was that this was not a framework that they were interested in going forward with," Bettman said.

It was believed that there had been no contact between the sides since last Friday when talks broke off after three straight days of meetings.

The bulk of the negotiations since mid-December were conducted mostly by Daly and players' association senior director Ted Saskin.

Bettman and Goodenow were invited by the union back to the table last week for two days of talks after the union rejected the league's previous proposal. Those four were the only people involved in Wednesday's session.

The NHL has been intent on making a deal that provides a link between league revenues and player costs. The players' association has steadfastly refused to accept a salary cap as a solution to the stalemate.

"We really gave this our best shot," Bettman said. "This is what we really believe we need."




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