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NHL, NHLPA meet for fourth consecutive day

by Dan Rosen

NEW YORK -- Members of the negotiating committees from the National Hockey League and the National Hockey League Players' Association met for a fourth consecutive day Friday in an attempt to establish a new Collective Bargaining Agreement.

The sub-committee session on Friday centered on hockey-related issues, including supplementary discipline, training camp and ice conditions.

NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said it was a productive session and the sides have been able to agree on some of the issues discussed.

The League's owners expect the negotiations to pick up next week, when the Union intends to make its proposal on the core economic issues.

NHLPA Executive Director Donald Fehr said Thursday that the Union is aiming to make its proposal on the core economic issues when the sides gather in Toronto on Tuesday. Daly said the Union's proposal will determine how far apart the two sides are on the financial issues, which he called the most important element of the negotiating process.

"There are a variety of other issues that are involved in collective bargaining and this Collective Bargaining Agreement that we've also been able to engage on where we do have counter proposals going both ways, where we've exchanged views and ideas on proposals, made movements and had some agreements," Daly said. "It's all part of the big process, but obviously the critical part of this negotiation will come down to the economics.

"We've talked conceptually for a while now about our respective views of the world and the financial condition of the League and clubs, and what we need to make this League healthy -- at least in our view -- going forward. We'll see how far apart we are."

The NHL made its proposal on the core economic issues to the NHLPA on July 13 in Toronto.

The Union's anticipated proposal to the League's owners next week is the focal point of the negotiations now after NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman reiterated to the Union on Thursday that the owners are not willing to play another season under the current CBA, which expires Sept. 15.

"We knew that was an option, a choice that they were going to be able to make," said Winnipeg Jets defenseman Ron Hainsey, who spoke on behalf of the Union after the negotiating session ended Friday. "We're focused on getting them our proposal Tuesday and giving them our view of how we see things going forward. That's what we're looking forward to. Obviously, we know that's a choice that can be made on the 15th and they made that clear (Thursday).

"That's not our focus. Our focus is getting them our proposal Tuesday and getting a deal done in plenty of time so that no time is missed."

Hainsey and Daly both expressed optimism in getting a new CBA in place by Sept. 15.

"I think it's absolutely possible to get something done where no time is missed," Hainsey said.

Added Daly, "I truly do believe a deal can be done, but it will require a lot of work. We've got a lot of issues still open. We haven't even heard from them [the Union] on the economic issues yet. And, we have a month.

"It'll require hard work and commitment on both sides, but certainly the NHL is committed and we hope the players are committed as well."

Daly said the two sides have scheduled meetings through Sept. 15. He expects the pace of those meetings to increase.

"Certainly the urgency increases every day," Daly said. "We all want to be in a position where we start the season, and this doesn't affect business and it doesn't affect the momentum we've generated. We're all working toward that goal."

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