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NHL executive: Another meeting with union planned

| Sunday, Nov. 4, 2012, 10:24 a.m.

A long meeting between the NHL and Players' Association focused on the biggest issues dividing the sides in the ongoing labor dispute, and the sides expect to meet again Tuesday, league and union officials said Sunday.

Deputy commissioner Bill Daly and union special counsel Steve Fehr met Saturday at an undisclosed location, though no specifics were offered regarding the talks.

Before Saturday, owners and players were chiefly divided on the timetable for a 50/50 split of revenue and how to guarantee current player contracts.

The NHL and NHLPA had not met since Oct. 18, though discussions between Daly and Fehr resumed this past Wednesday.

“We had a series of meetings over the course of the day (Saturday) and had a good, frank discussion on the most important issues separating us,” Daly said in a statement. “We plan to meet again early in the week.”

Added Fehr, also in a statement: “I agree with what Bill said. Hopefully we can continue the dialogue, expand the group and make steady progress.”

Those statements contained neither the pessimistic tone nor vitriol that had laced public comments from both parties in recent weeks.

The union conducted a conference call with its negotiation committee Sunday. Details of what was discussed were not available, but the negotiating committee and the executive board will hold a conference call Monday.

The lockout, enacted when the last labor expired Sept. 15, will hit Day 51 Monday.

The meeting Saturday occurred a day after the NHL canceled its signature regular-season event, the New Year's Day Winter Classic outdoor game.

About 26 percent of the schedule has been purged, though there is an expectation from the NHL and union that a legitimate season – possibly as many as 70 games – can go off if games begin in early December.

The NBA played 66 games last season after a similar lockout forced a Christmas Day start.

A normal NHL schedule consists of 82 games, but NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said last month a full season would only happen if games began this past Friday.

Neither Bettman nor union executive director Donald Fehr attended the meeting Saturday, and it is not known if they will be present for the next session. In their respective roles, Daly and Steve Fehr are tasked with drafting language of the next labor agreement.

Before Saturday, owners and players were chiefly divided on the timetable for a 50/50 split of revenue and how to guarantee current player contracts.

The NHL proposed an immediate 50/50 split of revenue Oct. 16, but the union contends only a gradual move toward that ratio will lead to honoring current contracts while not detracting from players' potential future earnings.

Multiple union offers, made Oct. 18, were rejected by the league because none mandated a 50/50 revenue split in Year 1 of the new labor agreement.

The last labor deal, agreed upon after the 2004-05 season was canceled because of a lockout, afforded players 57 percent of revenue. The league reported record $3.3 billion revenue last season, but Forbes Magazine recently reported that 18 of 30 clubs lost money.

The Penguins lost about $250,000 even though Consol Energy Center was filled to capacity for 41 regular-season home games and three playoff contests. The franchise bases its budget off at least four home playoff games, estimated to be worth between $1.5 and $2 million in revenue.

The Penguins' payroll exceeded the last salary cap ($64.4 million) because center Sidney Crosby was paid $9 million. His $8.7 million average annual salary was off the salary-cap ledger most of the season because Crosby missed 60 games with concussion symptoms. However, the Penguins still spent to within about $500,000 of the cap during Crosby's absence.

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