Sides agree on 'more aggressive meeting schedule'

Updated: April 20, 2005, 9:22 PM ET
Associated Press

NEW YORK -- The NHL and players' association returned to the bargaining table Tuesday and met for six hours, hoping to build momentum off talks that began two weeks earlier.

Negotiations centered around a new, hybrid concept -- which addresses the relationship between player costs and league revenues -- that was first discussed during the last round of talks in Toronto on April 4.

The idea contains an upper and lower salary cap that would float among the 30 teams depending on revenues.

"While we continued to discuss various issues relating to the concept that was introduced at our April 4 meeting, no substantive progress toward a new agreement was made," NHL chief legal officer Bill Daly said in a statement. "The parties have agreed to arrange a more aggressive meeting schedule over the next several weeks in an attempt to move the process forward."

The league's Board of Governors will meet Wednesday to discuss using replacement players for the 2005-06 season should no new CBA be reached in a reasonable time, SportsTicker reported.

The NHL has maintained that it prefers a link tying player costs to league revenues, while the union has mostly rejected that idea. Previous compromise discussions have failed to yield signs of progress toward ending the lockout that began seven months ago.

Union senior director Ted Saskin said he was concerned that the NHL is not serious about developing new ideas.

The meeting was attended by commissioner Gary Bettman and NHLPA executive director Bob Goodenow.

"I expect Bob and Gary will be speaking again soon to discuss any next steps," Saskin said.

Tuesday's meeting was the fifth bargaining session since commissioner Gary Bettman canceled the season in February. The NHL board of governors is set to convene Wednesday in New York.

If talks continue to fail, the NHL might seek to have a labor impasse declared. If successful, the league could try to implement its own system and open training camps in the fall with replacement players. That was a major topic of discussion when the board of governors met on March 1, and likely will be again when the representatives from the 30 teams get back together Wednesday.

The NHL has already filed two charges against the players' association with the National Labor Relations Board.

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.

Since the last meeting of the board on March 1, the live entry draft, scheduled for Ottawa in June, became the latest casualty of lockout that wiped out the entire 2004-05 season.

Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press