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NHL Makes New Contract Offer to Players as Cancellation Looms

Dec. 28 (Bloomberg) -- The National Hockey League made a new collective-bargaining offer to its players as the two sides try to end the 104-day lockout and avoid canceling the season.

Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said in a statement that the league won’t discuss details of the proposal until the players’ association reviews the offer.

The package, which was presented yesterday, calls for player contracts to be limited to six years, down from the eight years the players sought, ESPN reported on its website, citing a player it didn’t identify. The owners originally offered a five-year ceiling.

“We are hopeful that once the union’s staff and negotiating committee have had an opportunity to thoroughly review and consider our new proposal, they will share it with the players,” Daly said. “We want to be back on the ice as soon as possible.”

Jonathan Weatherdon, a spokesman for the players’ association, didn’t immediately respond to an e-mail seeking comment on Daly’s statement.

No formal bargaining sessions are scheduled. The sides last met on Dec. 13 with no progress.

The league has canceled 625 games, or 51 percent of the season, through Jan. 14. In 1994-95, an NHL lockout ended Jan. 11 and a 48-game schedule began on Jan. 20. A lockout wiped out the 2004-05 season, the only time an entire schedule was lost to a labor dispute in a major North American sports league.

The NHL has insisted that a 48-game schedule would be required to avoid losing the whole season again.

The sides are arguing over how to split revenue and other issues, including salary arbitration and the length of unrestricted free agency. League revenue grew to $3.3 billion last season, up 50 percent from $2.2 billion in 2003-04.

Under the previous agreement, players received 57 percent, or $1.9 billion, of the income. The remaining $1.4 billion, or 43 percent, was shared among the league’s 30 team owners. The league this time has offered a 50-50 split.

NHL players have been locked out since Sept. 16, the day after the old contract expired.

To contact the reporter on this story: Michael 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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