- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 17, 2012

NEW YORK | The NHL and the NHL Players’ Association are set to resume labor talks Wednesday at the league offices in New York.

Total revenue of the league’s operations is the biggest sticking point, and it’s an important one. The players like their cut. The owners don’t.

The two sides met last Friday in another round of negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement before the current one expires Sept. 15.

There were multiple reports coming out of the last round of talks that the owners’ offer included players’ hockey-related revenues get slashed from 57 percent to 46 percent. It also was reported that players would be forced to wait 10 years before becoming unrestricted free agents and that contracts would be limited to five years — a major change considering Zach Parise and fellow blue-chip free agent Ryan Suter decided to sign matching 13-year, $98 million contracts with the Minnesota Wild.

NHLPA Executive Director Donald Fehr and NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly are among those meeting Wednesday. The two sides have regularly met since opening talks June 29 in a bid to reach a new collective bargaining agreement.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said after Friday’s session, “We’ve got a lot of work to do in a relatively short period of time.”

Fehr said he didn’t know what kind of short timeframe Bettman was talking about.

“The optimum would be to get a deal done as soon as you could,” Fehr said.

Fehr said he viewed a strike as a “last resort.”

“What a last resort means is you bargain in good faith, you do everything you can, you listen carefully to what the other side says, you make counter proposals when you can, where you believe it’s consistent with the kind of contract you believe is appropriate, and you keep at it until you get an agreement,” he said. “Hopefully the other side shares that.”

Bettman oversaw the 1994-95 NHL lockout that delayed the start of the season and forced a 48-game regular-season schedule. When labor problems lingered in 2004-05, Bettman shut down the league. It took years for the NHL to recover from the lost season.

Fehr is very protective of the players’ prerogatives under the National Labor Relations Act. He believes players are effectively 50-50 partners with owners over anything that affects their work rules, such as realignment, which stalled last season after the players’ association refused to agree to the changes.

The NHL regular season is slated to start Oct. 11.

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