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NHL awaits NHLPA counterproposal

by Dan Rosen

NEW YORK -- The negotiating committee for the National Hockey League Players' Association plans to present a counterproposal as early as Thursday to the National Hockey League negotiating committee's latest proposal when the sides gather for a third straight day of meetings geared toward establishing a new Collective Bargaining Agreement.

The current CBA expires Sept. 15.

The League made its counterproposal during Tuesday's meeting, improving on its initial proposal by approximately $460 million across the life of the deal, including by $120 million in Year 1 alone.

Wednesday, Commissioner Gary Bettman reiterated that Tuesday's offer -- focused on answering some of the economic concerns raised by the Union in its initial offer, which was made Aug. 14 in Toronto -- was designed to move the negotiating process along as the expiration of the CBA looms.

"I hope it's clear that our intention is to make a deal that is fair," Commissioner Bettman said. "It's a deal that we, in light of the experience we've had the last seven years, think needs to address issues that we have seen develop under this Collective Bargaining Agreement. But, by the same token, we recognize the deal should be fair to the players and that's something we're hoping to accomplish. In that regard, [Tuesday], we made what we considered to be, and I think by any measure was, a meaningful and significant move."

Commissioner Bettman, NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly, Donald Fehr and NHLPA Special Advisor Steve Fehr met for approximately 90 minutes Wednesday so the Union could get clarification on some of the issues included in the proposal as it attempts to frame its response.

"From our side, what we intend to do and are in the process of doing, is working on a proposal in response to this one which, if luck holds, we will have for the NHL [Thursday]," Donald Fehr said. "If it doesn't hold it may be as late as Friday, but at this point I'm pretty optimistic it will be [Thursday]."

Donald Fehr said the Union spent Tuesday night and Wednesday morning analyzing the owners' new proposal and briefing the players on its contents.

Commissioner Bettman said compared to the owners' original proposal, which was made July 13, the new proposal contemplates a phased-in approach to the ultimate implementation of a 50-50 split in hockey-related revenues (HRR).

"There was some movement," Donald Fehr said, "and what we're going to endeavor to do is come up with a response which you would like to believe would allow us to make a deal, and if it doesn't quite do that, push the process along."

Commissioner Bettman said the NHL's proposal contemplated fixed-dollar amounts for the Players' Share in each of the next three seasons, with moderate reductions in those amounts as compared to 2011/12 numbers of 11 percent, 8.5 percent and 5.5 percent, respectively. Beginning in the fourth year of the deal, and in each of the years thereafter, the Players' Share calculation would return to a percentage of HRR (as slightly redefined by the NHL's proposal), and would feature a 50-50 split of revenues between the players and owners. The NHL's projections indicate that the Players' Share by that point should be restored fully to previous levels and will again begin growing in relation to the growth in League-wide revenues.

"The fact of the matter is, if the players have been getting 57 percent [in 2011-12], then we were getting 43 percent and we were paying all the expenses of running the game and running the League, and running our clubs," Commissioner Bettman said. "So any sense that even our initial offer didn't have a sense of fairness to it, I think you need to consider what's fair when you're looking at it from both sides, particularly as I said, we've been operating off of that 43 percent.

"But having said that, we moved off of that significantly -- and, I think, rather dramatically -- in an attempt to move this process forward and in an attempt to gain traction on this process because we very much want to make a deal and we want to do it on a timely basis. That's our goal. That's our hope and we'll have to wait and see what the Players' Association does tomorrow."

The Union plans to continue working on its counterproposal Wednesday night. The sides could reconvene Thursday afternoon, or on Friday, and Donald Fehr said he was optimistic the Union will have a counterproposal ready when they do get together.

"When the Union is ready, the Union will make a proposal," Commissioner Bettman said. "Hopefully it'll be a good one."

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl

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