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HOCKEY NHL, players plan to meet today



Published: Wed, January 26, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



Meeting could be the last chance to end the lockout and save the season.

NEW YORK (AP) -- The NHL and the players' association are taking another shot at saving the hockey season, which has been on the brink of cancellation for weeks.

A two-day meeting last week produced no tangible progress toward a labor agreement. The league and the union will meet again today in Toronto, but no formal proposal will be presented by the league.

Bill Daly, the NHL's chief legal officer, said Tuesday his negotiating team met this past weekend to discuss new ideas and address some issues raised by NHL Players' Association president Trevor Linden, the Vancouver Canucks center who initiated last week's meeting.

"Both parties agreed at last week's meeting that the time for formal proposals, at least during this process, may be behind us and we should try to sit at the table and discuss through the issues and maybe jointly craft something that might work," Daly told The Canadian Press. "And that's what we're going to continue to do."

The same group of negotiators that met in Chicago and Toronto will gather again: Linden, NHLPA senior director Ted Saskin and outside counsel John McCambridge as well as Daly, board of governors chairman Harley Hotchkiss and outside counsel Bob Batterman. Again, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and NHLPA executive director Bob Goodenow will sit this one out.

Outlook isn't good

The lockout, which reached its 132nd day Tuesday, already has forced the cancellation of 699 of 1,230 regular-season games, plus the All-Star game.

No proposals have been made since early December, when the players offered a 24 percent rollback on all existing contracts as part of a luxury-tax and revenue-sharing system. The NHL turned that down and made a counterproposal five days later that was rejected in a matter of hours.

If the season is wiped out, the Stanley Cup wouldn't be awarded for the first time since 1919, when a flu epidemic canceled the final series between Seattle and Montreal. The NHL would then become the first major North American sports league to lose an entire season because of a labor dispute.

Optimism was expressed last Wednesday after the first day of meetings when Linden and Hotchkiss had a chance to talk one-on-one. The good feeling didn't carry over to the next day, though, and Linden reportedly told players in a recorded message on the players' Web site that the NHL was still insisting on a salary cap and that the season would likely be canceled.

Daly said he was surprised that Linden came away from the meetings with that opinion because the NHL felt that some progress was made. Both sides admitted that they were still far apart on the key issue.




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