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Fehr memo says 'a lot of work' yet for union, NHL

| Friday, Nov. 9, 2012, 2:50 p.m.

After four days of negotiations in the Big Apple, neither the NHL nor its Players' Association have bit on resolving a labor dispute.

Morning and afternoon sessions wrapped Friday with little progress made on big issues dividing the sides.

There is no new labor agreement, and a lockout will hit Day 56 on Saturday, because there exists no common ground on when to begin a 50/50 split of revenue, how to honor current players' deals, contractual issues such as free agency, and alterations to an owners' revenue-sharing system.

“We're still not to the point where either side really likes the other's ideas,” Penguins union rep Craig Adams said.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said he would do “whatever it takes” to meet again with the NHLPA, including skipping Hockey Hall of Fame festivities in Toronto on Monday. However, neither said there are plans to continue negotiations into the weekend — though Saturday has not been ruled out.

The NHLPA's negotiating and executive committees were to conduct a conference call Friday night. Several Penguins players said their understanding of where labor negotiations stand is that the NHL has only made concessions from its opening bargaining offer from July. Players have maintained that stance for months.

The NHL reported a record $3.3 billion in revenue last season, but Forbes Magazine reported that 18 clubs lost money, including the Penguins at about $250,000.

Though offers were made at the meetings this week in New York, which occurred daily from Tuesday through Friday, the sides have publicly stated they are far apart.

This was the longest stretch of consecutive negotiations since owners enacted a lockout of players when the last labor deal expired Sept. 15. Games through November and the New Year's Day Winter Classic outdoor game, and all surrounding events, have been canceled.

The league has not canceled the All-Star Game because there is hope at least 60 games could be played if the season begins during the first week of December.

Union executive director Donald Fehr did not express optimism in a memo sent to players Thursday night.

“While we are meeting again, and while some steps are being taken, there is still a lot of work to be done and bridges to be crossed before an agreement can be made,” Fehr wrote.

Adams said Friday he felt comfortable describing sessions this week as “actual negotiations.” Any break in negotiations now was unlikely to signal this lockout would end like the last one, which forced the cancelation of the 2004-05 season, Adams said.

Rob Rossi is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at rrossi@tribweb.com or 412-380-5635.

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