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NHL Players and Owners Meet for First Time in Talks

by Staff Writer / New York Rangers

TORONTO (AP) -- NHL players and owners met for the first time on Wednesday in an effort to work out a labor agreement.

The current agreement is set to expire next September and there are expectations that negotiations will be stormy, possibly resulting in a lockout.

Bob Goodenow, the NHPA's executive director, said there have been a dozen or so meetings between the NHLPA and the NHL since January, but this was the first that included players and owners.

The NHLPA requested the meeting and Ottawa forward Daniel Alfredsson said they made a proposal.

"This is the first meeting where players and owners attended. I think it really addressed what we need to know," Alfredsson said. "They addressed their concerns and I think we made a proposal that addresses their concerns."

Boston Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs, Nashville Predators owner Craig Leipold and Carolina Hurricanes owner Peter Karmanos attended the meeting as well as NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and NHL chief legal officer Bill Daly.

Alfredsson, Trevor Linden of the Vancouver Canucks, Bill Guerin of the Dallas Stars, Vincent Damphousse of the San Jose Sharks, Bob Boughner of the Hurricanes and Goodenow were among those who represented the players.

Alfredsson and Goodenow wouldn't go into specifics about the meeting, which lasted several hours.

"There is a lot of work to be done," Goodenow said.

Goodenow requested a meeting over a round of golf with Bettman in September.

Daly said Wednesday's meeting was informational.

"Cost certainty came up. We had a discussion of the issues," Daly said. "We both exchanged ideas on how to resolve the issues."

Daly said there remains major differences.

"We have a philosophical divide that we have to bridge and if we ever get our arms around that issue everything else can fall into place quickly," Daly said when asked about a salary cap and cost certainty. "This league can't survive in its current form without a revolutionary change to the economic system."

Daly said the sides will be touch in the coming days. Another meeting has yet to be scheduled.

He said both sides don't want a work stoppage.

"We're trying to avoid that," Daly said. "We don't want either side to be in a corner facing a time deadline. That's why I do believe there's urgency to get these talks going. Today was another step in that process."

The NHL locked out players for 103 days in 1994 and reportedly has assembled a $300 million war chest.

Alfredsson said he's optimistic another work stoppage can be avoided.

"For the good of the game we want to avoid it," Alfredsson said "Everybody knows both sides are prepared for a lockout, but both sides want to work to avoid it."
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