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NHL, union end info talks as sides mull next step
NEW YORK (AP) - After two days of questions and answers, the NHL and the players’ association now need to figure out if they are ready to bargain again in what could be a last chance to save the hockey season.
The sides had a series of informational discussions by conference call and in face-to-face meetings with staff members that lasted much of Saturday and concluded Sunday. Those talks were spurred by the nearly 300-page contract proposal the NHL presented to the union Thursday.
It isn’t yet clear if this offer will swiftly lead to new bargaining, perhaps as early as Sunday or Monday. There have been no negotiations since the sides met with a federal mediator Dec. 13
The union said it was having internal discussions Sunday afternoon, adding it will provide an update later in the day on whether there will be face-to-face talks with the NHL on Sunday night.
All games through Jan. 14 have been canceled, claiming more than 50 percent of the schedule. The NHL wants to reach a deal by Jan. 11 and open the season Jan. 19, with a 48-game schedule.
Bargaining sessions with only the NHL and union haven’t been held since Dec. 6, when talks abruptly ended after the players’ association made a counterproposal to the league’s previous offer. The league said that offer was contingent on the union accepting three elements unconditionally and without further bargaining.
The NHL then pulled all existing offers off the table. Two days of sessions with mediators the following week ended without progress.
A person familiar with key points of the offer told The Associated Press that the league proposed raising the limit of individual free-agent contracts to six years from five _ seven years if a team re-signs its own player; raising the salary variance from one year to another to 10 percent, up from 5 percent; and one compliance buyout for the 2013-14 season that wouldn’t count toward a team’s salary cap but would be included in the overall players’ share of income.
The person spoke on condition of anonymity because details of the new offer weren’t being discussed publicly.
The NHL maintained the deferred payment amount of $300 million it offered in its previous proposal, an increase from an earlier offer of $211 million. The initial $300 million offer was pulled after negotiations broke off this month.
The latest proposal is for 10 years, running through the 2021-22 season, with both sides having the right to opt out after eight years.
If this offer doesn’t quickly lead to a new collective bargaining agreement, the next round of cuts could claim the entire schedule.
The NHL is the only North American professional sports league to cancel a season because of a labor dispute, losing the 2004-05 campaign to a lockout. A 48-game season was played in 1995 after a lockout stretched into January.
It is still possible this dispute could eventually be settled in the courts if the sides can’t reach a deal on their own.
The NHL filed a class-action suit this month in U.S. District Court in New York in an effort to show its lockout is legal. In a separate move, the league filed an unfair labor practice charge with the National Labor Relations Board, contending bad-faith bargaining by the union.
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