NHL Union Makes Labor Deal Counteroffer, Awaits League Response

The National Hockey League Players’ Association made a new counteroffer to the NHL’s latest Collective Bargaining Agreement proposal as the two sides met yesterday for the first time in about two weeks.

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said the league would respond to the union today. The NHL and its players’ association, seeking to end a 106-day lockout, met face-to-face yesterday in New York to discuss details of a 10-year offer.

The league presented the players’ union with its most recent offer on Dec. 27. After reviewing it, the union countered with its latest offer yesterday. The NHL is seeking a deal by Jan. 11 to allow for training camps to begin the next day with a 48-game season set to start Jan. 19.

“Their response was a comprehensive one, dealing with a full slate of issues that we raised in the proposal we put forth,” Bettman told reporters. “We’re in the process of reviewing their response.”

The two sides hadn’t held face-to-face negotiations since Dec. 13 when federal mediators were present.

Under the league’s latest offer, the limit of individual free-agent contracts was raised to six years from five years or seven years if a team re-signs its own player, the Associated Press reported, citing a person familiar with the document that it didn’t identify. It also offered to raise the salary variance from one year to another to 10 percent from 5 percent.

The latest proposal would run through the 2021-22 season, with both sides having the right to opt out after eight years, AP said.

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 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.

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