NHL’s Bettman Says Labor Sides Aren’t Speaking ‘Same Language’

National Hockey League Commissioner Gary Bettman said the league and its players’ union aren’t “speaking the same language” after labor discussions in Toronto ended yesterday after one hour.

He called the session “in many ways a step backward” in efforts to end a lockout that has canceled the first 82 games of the season.

The NHL Players’ Association made three counterproposals to the league’s latest offer, which included a 50-50 split of hockey-related revenue, Bettman told reporters. None were acceptable, he said on the league’s website.

The union “came back and basically made three alternate proposals on the players’ share, all variations to some degree of the one proposal that they made over the summer and really haven’t deviated from since,” Bettman said.

The commissioner said none of the union proposals “even began to approach 50-50,” without giving details. The players received 57 percent of hockey-related revenue under the contract that expired on Sept. 15.

“It’s clear that we’re not speaking the same language in terms of what they came back to us with,” Bettman said.

Donald Fehr, executive manager of the union, said the players’ gave up $3.3 million in concessions under the agreement that ended the lockout eight years ago, and stand to lose 12.3 percent of their salaries under the latest proposal.

Player Losses

Over six years of the league’s proposal, Fehr said the players’ salaries will be lowered $1.65 billion based on the league’s anticipated growth rate of 5 percent. If the rate continues at 7 percent, he estimated the loss at nearly $1.8 billion.

“It’s not hard to figure out why the owners think this is a good deal,” Fehr told reporters yesterday.

Bettman said he’s hopeful that a full season could still be played. The season was to start on Oct. 11 and games have been canceled through Oct. 24.

The sides held talks two days after the league’s owners made their latest offer to end the lockout in time for an 82- game season to start Nov. 2.

Yesterday’s session included four team owners and 18 players, including Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins.

The cancellation of the preseason and first two weeks of the regular season caused a loss of about $250 million, Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly has said.

The league’s offer also calls for entry level contracts of two years with a maximum length on other accords set at five years. Unrestricted free agency would be 28 years of age or eight accrued seasons in the NHL.

The proposed salary cap for the 2012-13 season is $59.9 million, with transition rules allowing teams to go as high as $70.2 million for one season. The proposed salary-cap floor would be $43.9 million.

To contact the reporter on this story: Mike Buteau in Atlanta at mbuteau@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Sillup at msillup@bloomberg.net

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