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Professional

After 2 days away, big shots return to negotiations after progress made

Bettman, Fehr rejoin labor talks

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman (pictured), along with Players Association Executive Donald Fehr, returned to labor negotiations Thursday afternoon after 2 days where their respective lieutenants presided over talks.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman (pictured), along with Players Association Executive Donald Fehr, returned to labor negotiations Thursday afternoon after 2 days where their respective lieutenants presided over talks.

NEW YORK—NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and NHL Players’ Association. Executive Director Donald Fehr were poised to rejoin labor negotiations Thursday after moving aside to let their respective top lieutenants preside over the talks for 2 days.

The change comes at a critical juncture in the discussions, which produced some movement on each side on Tuesday and Wednesday.

However, left unresolved were key issues such as as the league’s insistence on a 5-year cap on contracts and a maximum five percent salary variance from year to year.

The NHL did throw in a new wrinkle by proposing that teams would be allowed to re-sign their own free agents for 7 years, not five. The NBA has a similar free-agency provision.

NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly and NHLPA Special Counsel Steve Fehr led each delegation on Tuesday and Wednesday with the participation of six owners and 18 players.

The sides talked for about 20 hours over the 2 days, sometimes meeting among themselves and sometimes moving from one floor of a Manhattan hotel to another to gather with the opposite side.

The NHL agreed to increase its “make whole” payments to $300 million from its previous offer of $211 million, but the NHLPA had asked for $393 million to ensure players would be paid the full value of their contracts as they make the transition from getting a 57 pecent share of hockey-related revenue to 50 percent. The NHLPA was also proposing a 5-year deal and was adamantly opposed to the 10-year term the league wants.

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