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NHL makes 'significant' counterproposal Tuesday

by Dan Rosen

NEW YORK -- The National Hockey League negotiating committee made a "significant" counterproposal Tuesday morning to the National Hockey League Players' Association offer from two weeks ago in the hopes of getting the current Collective Bargaining Agreement negotiations moving toward a resolution.

According to NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, the proposal Tuesday focused on answering some of the Union's concerns about the core economic issues.

The current CBA is set to expire Sept. 15.

"We need to get on the same page on the economics," Commissioner Bettman said, "and we're hoping that by virtue of the proposal we made today that there will be some traction and that there will be a framework for the negotiation."

"We believe we've made a significant, meaningful step," he added.

Commissioner Bettman has said previously the owners view the distribution of hockey-related revenue as the most important part of the economic component of the new CBA.

Under the expiring CBA, the players receive 57 percent of the hockey-related revenues. The NHL's initial proposal, made on July 13, called for the players' share of HRR to be reduced to 46 percent.

While Commissioner Bettman would not reveal the details of the proposal Tuesday, he said it was "a significant proposal with meaningful movement."

NHLPA Executive Director Donald Fehr said the Union would spend Tuesday evening analyzing the counterproposal. Fehr said the plan was for the Union to work into Wednesday morning before coming back to the NHL offices for further negotiations Wednesday afternoon.

"It takes some time to review proposals, to analyze them, to make sure you understand them and to formulate an appropriate response to the proposal that's made," Fehr said. "Certainly, at this stage of the negotiations, you don't want to do that before you're ready and before you're sure that you understand it. But, I do expect, as of today at least, that we'll be meeting again [Wednesday] afternoon."

Fehr also said the Union intends to respond to the proposal made Tuesday.

Instead of responding to the owners' initial proposal in mid-July, the Union made what it called an "alternative proposal" on Aug. 14.

"[The counterproposal on Tuesday] is different in some respects from what [the owners] did before, but I don't want to characterize it at this stage before we've had an opportunity to really go through it and make sure we understand it and come up what we think is an appropriate response," Fehr said.

The counterproposal was made in a small-group negotiating session Tuesday morning at the NHL's offices. Commissioner Bettman, NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly, Fehr and NHLPA Special Counsel Steve Fehr took part in the session, which lasted approximately 45 minutes.

The Union negotiators left at that time, returning nearly four hours later. Donald Fehr said the break was used to make an initial study of the proposal and to brief players on its content. On the return trip, San Jose Sharks defenseman Douglas Murray, Winnipeg Jets defenseman Ron Hainsey, and unrestricted free agent forward Mathieu Darche joined the NHLPA's negotiating group.

More players are expected to arrive Wednesday. Negotiating sessions are scheduled through Friday.

Commissioner Bettman said the owners were "hopeful and anticipating there will be a response" from the Union on Wednesday.

"We felt in order to move the process along and hopefully engage the Union in a way that would bring a negotiation that had traction we tried to address what we thought the fundamental issues were that they were raising in a way that was structured to hopefully address the way they're looking at the world," Commissioner Bettman said. "I'm trying to get us onto the same page. I'm trying to get us into a common language and hopefully this will do that."

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl

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