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NHL

Official: League must resume play by mid-January

| Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2012, 7:26 p.m.

The NHL season is within a month of being canceled, the league's No. 2-ranking official said Wednesday.

Deputy commissioner Bill Daly, during an interview with “Hockey Central” on Sportsnet in Canada, said games must begin by “mid-January.”

“I don't think there is a date circled,” Daly said, noting that commissioner Gary Bettman has stated no fewer than 48 games would constitute a season.

“We have a general sense of when we have to be playing hockey by. It's fair to say it's sometime in mid-January.”

A shortened 1995 season began nine days after the NHL and Players' Association agreed to a new labor contract Jan. 11 of that year. The 2004-05 season was canceled Feb. 16, 2005.

Owners have locked out players since Sept. 15, when the last labor contract expired. Games are canceled through Dec. 30, and Daly said another cancelation would “probably” come before Christmas.

The NHL is considering canceling games through either Jan. 10 or Jan. 14 as part of its next round of cuts.

Contract rights and length of the next labor contract are sticking points for the NHL and union.

Also, owners will not increase money from outside the system, which will take the players' share of future revenue closer to their 57 percent from the last labor contract, Daly said.

The sides have essentially agreed on a players' pension plan, revenue sharing, adjustments to the salary-cap system, training-camp schedule alterations, on- and off-ice discipline, facility standards and a healthy/safety plan, Daly said.

Players have through Thursday to authorize the union executive board to “disclaim interest” — a legal maneuver that, if enacted, would disband the NHL Players' Association and allow players to file antitrust lawsuits against the NHL.

Daly said he expected players to “overwhelmingly” vote in favor of granting that authorization. Two-thirds of more than 700 players must vote in favor for the executive board to receive clearance to “disclaim interest.”

“I don't think it would be anything positive to the process, and it could prolong resolution,” Daly said.

No bargaining sessions are scheduled, Daly said. He and union special counsel Steve Fehr spoke Tuesday.

Union executive director Donald Fehr said on Sportsnet's “Jeff Blair Show” that players are ready to do a deal.

“They know we're not far apart,” Fehr said.

Daly vehemently disputed the notion the sides are close.

“There are a lot of open issues,” he said. “What we're prepared to do is shut down the industry over doing a deal that is not right for our owners.”

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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