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“We remain confident that the lockout is prohibited by the Quebec labor code and look forward to presenting our case to the commission in the near future. Should the NHL carry out its threat to lock out the players in Quebec, it will do so at its own risk.”

A similar request was filed late Thursday with the Alberta labor relations board. NHLPA director of operations Alexandra Dagg said the aim was to prevent players from the Canadiens, Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames from being locked out.

The NHLPA argued that because it isn’t certified as a union with the province, its members can’t locked out under Quebec labor law. In Alberta, the union will argue that proper procedure wasn’t followed, including using a mediator.

On Thursday, players turned out in force in midtown Manhattan, while the league’s board of governors met nearby in another hotel.

The last labor stoppage caused the cancellation of the entire 2004-05 season, a lockout that ended only when players accepted a salary cap and a 24 percent rollback of salaries.

“If we’re not going to start camp on time, it’s disappointing, for sure,” Panthers forward Stephen Weiss said Friday. “We’re all training all summer to be ready to play, and if we don’t get that opportunity, it’s disappointing. But I’m optimistic that we’ll get a deal done sooner than later.

“There’s smart enough people involved in this thing that I don’t think it’ll take too long. We just have to make sure whatever deal they do agree on, it makes sense for both sides and it will be lasting.”

Following lockouts last year by basketball and football owners, Bettman says hockey management is determined to come away with economic gains, even if it forces another work stoppage.

“Two other leagues _ the NBA and the NFL _ their players have recognized that in these economic times there is a need to retrench,” Bettman said after a two-hour owners meeting Thursday.

Damage from another lockout will occur almost immediately, and there is no telling how jilted fans and sponsors will react to another shutdown, especially if it lasts through the fall and into the winter.

Management’s latest offer has a short shelf life. Once the lockout begins, Bettman says the economic damage would cause owners to offer players a less beneficial deal.

Players currently receive 57 percent of hockey-related revenue, and the owners want to bring that number down as far as perhaps 47 percent _ which is an increase from their original offer of 43 percent.

“The fact is, we believe that 57 percent of HRR is too much,” Bettman said.

The union offered a deal based on actual dollars, seeking a guarantee of the $1.8 billion players received last season. Annual industry revenue has grown from $2.1 billion to $3.3 billion under the expiring deal.

Players are concerned management hasn’t addressed the league’s financial problems by re-examining the teams’ revenue-sharing formula. Having made several big concessions to reach a deal in 2005, the union doesn’t think it should have to make more this time after record financial growth.

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