x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

NHL: Lockout continues as labour dispute shows no sign of thaw

A start to the delayed new NHL season was no nearer being confirmed despite a fresh round of talks between league officials and players representatives aimed at ending the two-month long money dispute.

Players' Association executive director Donald Fehr arrives for fresh talks at the NHL's New York HQ.
Players' Association executive director Donald Fehr arrives for fresh talks at the NHL's New York HQ.

Hopes of this year's National Hockey League season being salvaged are fading after NHL chiefs and the players' association admitted they were still 'far apart', despite fresh talks aimed at ending their bitter dispute.

The league has locked out players for two months, wiping out the start of the new season, in a dispute over how much money players should get.

The latest round of talks in New York, ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday in the US, saw the players' union presented a fresh proposal in the hope of brokering a new collective bargaining agreement, but the league said the latest offer fell short of its expectations.

"There was movement on some issues by the players association and that was appreciated," NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said afterwards.

"There was movement by us on some issues, but we're still far apart.

"Hopefully there will have been some momentum from today's session that we can build off of to hopefully, again hopefully, bring this process to a successful conclusion.

"I think it's frustrating for everybody and disappointing for everybody that it's taken this long and that we're still far apart, but we're going to stay at it."

Wednesday's talks took place just two days after the two sides had met at the same venue with no progress being made in the continuing negotiations with the entire season at stake.

The NHL has already called off all games through Nov. 30, as well as its showcase Winter Classic on New Year's Day, costing the league millions of dollars in revenue.

The work stoppage is the fourth in 20 years for the NHL, the most recent wiping out the 2004-5 season.

League owners would like to avoid long-term contracts, limiting them to five years, delay free agency until a player turns 28 or plays eight years, have two-year entry deals and limit salary arbitration until after five years of play.

They also want to reduce the players' share of $3.3 billion in annual revenue to 50 per cent from the current 57 per cent.

Bettman said that the league business is losing between $18 million to $20 million per day, while players are losing between $8 million to $10 million per day

NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr admitted frustration with the league's response.

"The players made a dramatic move by anybody's standards," Fehr said.

"We eliminated the concern we had about the big gap on the players share - moved more than 80 per cent of what the commissioner had said our differences were in their direction.

"They gave us a response ... but on the big things there was, as of today, no reciprocity in any meaningful sense."

Fehr felt the union had come up against a solid brick wall in its negotiations with the league.

"If one of you is going to ask me 'what happens next?' the answer would be, 'I don't know'," he said. "We'll consider, talk to the players and then see."

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