<
>

Sides to meet again on Aug. 17

8/6/2004

TORONTO -- Labor talks between the NHL and its players'
union resumed Wednesday, but both sides said no progress was made
toward a deal.

The four-hour session in the union's Toronto office was their
first meeting since July 21, when the league presented six possible
concepts for a new economic system.

The collective bargaining agreement expires Sept. 15. If a new
agreement isn't reached, a lockout could threaten the entire
season.

"They haven't moved off their desire for a salary cap, and
that's not going to lead us to any progress," said Ted Saskin, the
players' association senior director.

Asked if he could be persuaded to adopt a luxury tax, NHL
commissioner Gary Bettman said no.

"I wish we were making more substantive progress, but we have a
vision for the future of the game. It is one that requires
substantive changes so that the game and our clubs can be
healthy," Bettman said. "The union, at least for the time being,
seems intent on maintaining the status quo and as we all know that
isn't working."

Bettman has vowed to establish "cost certainty" for clubs. He
is determined to make sure the percentage of revenues paid out in
player salaries is sliced.

"They are married to the status quo or tweaks to the status
quo," said Bill Daly, the NHL's chief legal officer. "To us, the
status quo is disastrous."

An economic study commissioned by the NHL found that players get
76 percent of all league revenues -- far more than the percentage
for the other major team sports. The players' association has
challenged many of the league's financial findings.

"It appears to us, and we've been saying this for a long time,
that their plan is to trigger a lockout to try to put economic
force on the players to try to get a salary cap," Saskin said.

"The only thing they are proposing is something they know is
unacceptable to us. They haven't been willing to engage in any
compromise solutions, so I can't really have any sense of optimism
today."

Saskin said the union proposed a system last Oct. 1 that
included revenue sharing, a luxury tax, a one-time five percent
rollback in salaries and some changes to entry-level salaries, but
he says they might scale back that proposal because he says players
salaries have decreased since then.

Bettman, Daly and other league lawyers met with union head Bob
Goodenow, Saskin and their group of lawyers.

They have agreed to meet again Aug. 17 in New York.