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“If the players had made proposals which mirrored the owners, what we would’ve said is we want to increase to 71 percent, then we’ll only take 68 percent _ that is the equivalent of their 46 percent proposal,” Fehr said. “The equivalent of today’s proposal would be to say is all we want is 67 percent.”

The NHL has backed off on its previous demand of a 24 percent cut on all existing contracts _ a key component of the deal that ended the season-long lockout in 2005 _ but the league is seeking cuts in other ways to make up for that.

“We’re not asking for a rollback,” Bettman said. “We have said that our proposal _ the one that is time-sensitive _ would have a phase-in, and while it contemplates the possible reduction in player share, if you use our estimates it would be under 10 percent. If you use the players’ association’s estimate on revenue growth, it would actually be seven percent.

“When you factor all of that in, it seems to me that having a work stoppage and damaging (hockey-related revenue) long term really doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.”

Fehr conceded that the phase-in does slow the rate the players would absorb cuts, but not in a significant manner.

“The phase-in in the first year would hit the players a little bit less than the full phase-in, it would reduce the share from 57 to 49 rather than from 57 to 47,” he said. “While it is accurate in a sense that the owners’ proposal does not take quite as much money from the players, somebody might say that they’ve moved from an extraordinary large amount to a really very big amount.”

As he has all along, Bettman insisted that the league will not operate the upcoming season under the current economic plan, and cited damage that will result from an impending lockout as the reason why the current offer won’t be viable after this weekend.

“What we would be prepared to do now to make a deal before there is extensive damage is not the same that we will be prepared to do in the event we get to a point where we have suffered the damage,” Bettman said. “We looked at their proposal. It was clear that there wasn’t very much movement at all.

“We said we have to try something different which is why we tried to simplify the approach and focus on the percentage.”

Elsewhere, the union filed an application with Quebec’s labor relations board, along with at least 16 Montreal Canadiens, asking it to declare a lockout illegal in the province. A hearing on the application is scheduled for Friday.

“The players don’t want to see hockey interrupted,” Fehr said. “We believe under Quebec law, a lockout would not be appropriate and would not be legal, so we are asserting that position. We would like to think that is consistent with the interests of the fans and eventually consistent with the interests of the owners.

“We’ll let the legal proceedings take care of themselves.”

What makes this week unique _ in addition to the deadline looming over all of it, of course _ is the amount of players on hand. It will indeed be the offseason’s biggest show of force. Pittsburgh captain Sidney Crosby, one of the league’s biggest stars, is one of them. He skated on Tuesday with some of his Penguins teammates in suburban Pittsburgh before traveling to New York.

Industry revenue has grown from $2.1 billion to $3.3 billion annually under the expiring deal. Owners asked players to cut their share of hockey related revenue during a six-year proposal. Players are concerned management hasn’t addressed its problems by re-examining the teams’ revenue-sharing format.

“We’re not in position to make a judgment as to whether this is going to be productive. We have to wait and see,” Fehr said. “Every day is in some sense more important than the last one. The commissioner has indicated that a lockout will begin if no agreement is reached. We take him at his word as we have for the better part of a year.

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