Concepts will blend elements from both sides

Updated: April 13, 2005, 8:48 PM ET
Associated Press

NEW YORK -- When NHL labor talks resume, a new plan will be up for discussion that attempts to blend elements from both sides' vision of how players will be paid.

Negotiations will probably resume next week, during which a new, hybrid concept -- which addresses the relationship between player costs and league revenues -- will be brought to the table, a source close to the negotiations told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity Tuesday.

The NHL has maintained that it prefers a link tying player costs to league revenues, while the union has mostly rejected that idea. This new, mixed plan would appear to incorporate elements from both concepts.

Previous compromise discussions have failed to yield signs of progress toward ending the lockout that began seven months ago.

It was thought that talks would resume this week, but as of Tuesday there was still difficulty in scheduling a meeting, the source said. Next week's likely bargaining session would come at a busy time for the NHL, which already has a board of governors meeting planned for Wednesday.

The last bargaining session, held April 4 in Toronto, went better than others since the 2004-05 season was canceled in February. NHL chief legal officer Bill Daly said there was now a good understanding across the table of where the sides are and that he was hopeful there would be continued progress.

Last Thursday, commissioner Gary Bettman and union executive director Bob Goodenow had dinner with some general managers and players in Michigan, where the GMs convened for a meeting. Bettman and Goodenow had a drink together at the hotel bar later that night, and tentatively planned to hold more official talks soon.

On March 17, the NHL made two proposals to the players' association -- one containing a link between player costs and league revenues, and another without the relationship.

But the "de-linked" offer had a short shelf life, and the deadline for the union to accept that kind of deal expired last Friday.

It was the second time that type of offer was made to the players' association, and the second time the NHL pulled it off the table. The league first made the overture two days before the season was canceled, and the union responded by dropping its opposition for a salary cap.

The latest unlinked proposal set each team's salary cap at $37.5 million. The linkage offer limited player costs to 54 percent of the league's revenues.

In a related matter, the National Labor Relations Board is still investigating two charges the NHL has made against the players' association.

One challenged a union policy the NHL says would unfairly penalize members who became replacement players -- forcing them to pay back money they receive during the lockout. The league called that policy coercive and in violation of player rights.

The other charge came in response to reports that the union was threatening to decertify agents that represented replacement players.

After investigating the league's claims, the NLRB will decide whether to issue a complaint and whether to seek preliminary injunctive relief.

The NHL has already discussed using replacement players next season should an agreement not be reached with the union. The board of governors is expected to discuss the topic further next week.


Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press

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