NHL talks hit snag on 4th straight day of meetings

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“Every player is welcome in every meeting,” the defenseman said. “Every player has the ability to get in touch with Don via phone, via email, or get in touch with me or any member of the negotiating committee via phone, via email. This notion that something was hidden over the past 24 or 48 hours is totally inaccurate. We feel that this should put this issue to rest.

“Obviously there aren’t 30 owners in the room, there aren’t 700 players, but we make sure everyone who wants to know exactly what’s going on … we’re taking calls every night. It was a memo to summarize as quick as possible for players. At the end of that memo I believe it says if you want exact details of the offer, call us or email us.”

Players made a pair of proposals Wednesday, and the NHL responded with one Thursday. No new official offers were exchanged Friday, but there was give and take during discussions throughout the day. The last of three sessions centered on the core economic issues keeping the sides apart, and it broke up after about two hours.

Bettman said the league is ready to continue talking as soon as the union wants.

“Whatever it takes. We’re available,” Bettman said. “It’s always better to be together and talk when there is something to talk about. I am not getting into the specifics. When you’re in a process like this, you’re really not watching the calendar. I’m not sure I can tell you what day it is.”

That could change soon if a deal isn’t struck.

The 55-day-old lockout has already caused the league to call off 327 regular-season games, including the New Year’s Day Winter Classic in Michigan, and the NHL has said a full season won’t be played. The league is in danger of having a lockout wipe out a full season for the second time in seven years.

Bettman is scheduled to attend Hockey Hall of Fame inductions Monday night in Toronto, but developments in negotiations could prevent that.

“That’s my plan (to attend), but if there is a reason to be doing something else, as much as I enjoy the Hall of Fame inductions, if there is something else that is pending, that would take precedence,” he said.

The lockout began Sept. 16 after the collective bargaining agreement expired, and both sides rejected proposals Oct. 18. The players’ association has agreed to a 50-50 split of hockey-related revenues, but that division wouldn’t kick in until the third year of the deal.

During a second consecutive day of marathon negotiations Wednesday, the players’ association made an offer on revenue sharing in which richer teams would help out poorer organizations, and another proposal regarding the “make-whole” provision that would guarantee full payment of all existing multiyear player contracts.

Revenue sharing and the make-whole provision are major hurdles. Both sides have made proposals that included a 50-50 split of hockey-related revenues. The NHL has moved toward the players’ side on the “make-whole” provision and whose share of the economic pie that money will come from.

The NHLPA estimates that about $590 million is needed to guarantee the amount left to be paid to players on the “make-whole” provision, but so far the league is only offering $211 million.

Along with the split of hockey-related revenue and other core economic issues, the sides must also agree on contract lengths, arbitration and free agency.

The union accepted a salary cap in the previous labor pact, which wasn’t reached until after the entire 2004-05 season was canceled because of a lockout. The union doesn’t want to absorb the majority of concessions this time after the NHL had record revenue that exceeded $3 billion last season.

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