- The Washington Times - Friday, June 17, 2005

The NHL and the locked-out NHL Players Association resumed contract talks yesterday, one day after still another positive indication the two sides might be on the way to labor peace.

The union has informed the British Columbia Labor Relations Board it has agreed to the league’s request for an adjournment in certification hearings scheduled to begin tomorrow in Vancouver.

The move is seen as significant, a clear indication the union feels progress toward a new collective bargaining agreement is being made. The lockout, which resulted in the cancellation of the 2004-05 season, is in its 275th day and is the longest in pro sports history.

Two Canadian provinces, British Columbia and Quebec, have laws against the use of replacement workers during lockouts or strikes. Those laws would prevent the Vancouver Canucks and the Montreal Canadiens from using replacement players, as well as visiting teams.

At one point, the league threatened to use replacement personnel to staff teams but backed off during a board of governors’ meeting April20.

The NHLPA acts as a union but has not been certified by the two provinces. The NHLPA applied for certification in both, and this weekend’s hearing in Vancouver concerned one of those applications.

The owners and players met only twice during the first 126 days of the lockout, but that pace has quickened considerably since May. The negotiators met 11 times last month and will have met 11 times this month after the conclusion of today’s talks in Toronto. Both sides have indicated progress is being made amid reports that agreement already has been reached on a salary cap in principle.

The scheduled certification hearings in Vancouver might have disrupted the momentum of the ongoing talks. They certainly would have drawn the principal negotiators away from the bargaining table and at the least slowed progress on a new CBA.

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