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NHL dispute appears at critical juncture as talks resume Tuesday

(MCT) — The NHL and NHL Players’ Association will meet Tuesday in New York at what appears to be a critical juncture in the labor dispute that began when the league locked players out on Sept. 15.

People who are familiar with the talks but are not authorized to comment publicly said players and some influential owners are pressuring their respective negotiators to reach a deal. The league has canceled the schedule through Nov. 30 — 26.5 percent of the season — as well as the Jan. 1 Winter Classic. Losing more games could damage its prospects for future revenue and alienate more fans.

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and NHLPA Executive Director Donald Fehr are expected to attend the meeting Tuesday, as are about a dozen players and several owners. About 100 players discussed strategy Monday during a conference call.

The sides have agreed on a 50-50 split of hockey-related revenue but haven’t agreed how to get there from the 57 percent paid to players last season. The NHL reportedly altered its “make whole” proposal and would pay players the full value of their contracts, instead of making deferred payments that would count against players’ future earnings, but that apparently has not been put on paper.

The meeting Tuesday follows daylong talks held Saturday in an undisclosed location between NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly and NHLPA special counsel Steve Fehr. Daly said they had “a good, frank discussion on the most important issues separating us,” a description Fehr echoed.

However, they must also agree on issues such as the NHL’s proposals to limit contracts to five years and delay free agency until age 28 or eight years’ service, and on how the salary-cap floor will be calculated.

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