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CBA negotiations break off Thursday

by Dan Rosen

TORONTO -- The National Hockey League and National Hockey League Players' Association met for a little more than an hour Thursday in the latest attempt to negotiate a new Collective Bargaining Agreement.

At the conclusion of the meeting, at the Union's office, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said the Union responded to the League's proposal from Tuesday, but he said there was little to discuss from the proposal.

"The Players' Association came back and basically made three alternate proposals on the players' share, all variations, to some degree, of the one proposal that they made over the summer and really haven't deviated from since," Commissioner Bettman said. "And none of the three variations of players' share that they gave us even began to approach 50-50 (revenue split) either at all or for some long period of time and it's clear that we're not speaking the same language in terms of what they came back to us with.

"It is still my hope that we can accomplish my goal, the League's goal of getting an 82-game season, but I am concerned based on the proposal that was made today that things are not progressing. To the contrary, I think the proposal that was made by the Players' Association was in many ways a step backward."

NHLPA Executive Director Donald Fehr said the Union made three different proposals Thursday in the hopes that the League would pick one that could be negotiated upon.

In outlining the Union's first two proposals, Fehr said the players' share of hockey-related revenue would gradually decline toward a 50 percent share based on revenue growth.

He said the League estimates year-over-year growth of 5 percent and the average annual growth in the previous CBA was approximately 7 percent.

"We said, here are two avenues that you can look at which the players are prepared to get down to in a reasonable amount of time given what happened to percentages which look like yours," Fehr said.

In the third proposal, Fehr claimed the Union estimates the players would be losing approximately 13 percent of their salaries under the immediate 50-50 split the League proposed Tuesday, so the proposal the Union made was to segregate that 13 percent, have the owners pay it in full, and put a 50-50 split on the remaining 87 percent of contracts already signed and on future contracts.

"The so called 50-50 deal, plus honoring current contracts proposed by the NHL Players' Association earlier today is being misrepresented," Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said in a statement. "It is not a 50-50 deal. It is, most likely a 56- to 57-percent deal in Year One and never gets to 50 percent during the proposed five-year term of the agreement.

"The proposal contemplates paying the players approximately $650 million outside of the players' share," he continued. "In effect, the Union is proposing to change the accounting rules to be able to say '50-50,' when in reality it is not. The Union told us that they had not yet 'run the numbers.' We did."

Commissioner Bettman and Daly submitted an offer to the NHLPA on Tuesday that would allow for a full 82-game season to begin on Nov. 2. The proposed CBA was for six years, with a mutual option for a seventh year, and included a 50-50 split of hockey-related revenues over the life of the deal.

The NHL locked out the players on Sept. 16 due to the lack of an existing CBA.

The details of the offer the NHL submitted Tuesday were made public Wednesday.

The League did not ask for a rollback in current player contracts. It asked for entry-level contracts to be two years in length and for a five-year maximum length on all other contracts.

The NHL proposed players would be eligible to become unrestricted free agents after eight accrued NHL seasons or at 28 years of age.

The salary cap for the 2012-13 season under the NHL's offer would be $59.9 million, but transition rules would allow teams to go as high as $70.2 million for one year. The salary-cap floor would be $43.9 million.

The NHL also proposed to commit $200 million to the revenue sharing pool for the 2012-13 season that would be adjusted based on actual hockey-related revenue calculations following the season. The League's revenue sharing proposal would require the top 10 revenue-generating clubs to fund 50 percent of the pool.

Commissioner Bettman also stressed Tuesday that the League's proposal addressed the concerns the players have in how their salaries would be affected by going down from the 57 percent share of hockey-related revenue they earned in the final year of the previous CBA to the 50 percent share they'd earn in the NHL's proposal.

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl

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