NHL Talks With Players Continue as Jan. 11 Deadline Approaches

The National Hockey League and its players’ union will continue federally mediated negotiations today, drawing a day closer to a league-stated Jan. 11 deadline to reach a deal or lose the season.

The two sides met last night and the National Hockey League Players’ Association, facing a midnight deadline to disclaim interest in the union, opted to continue negotiating in an effort to save a 48-game season, news organizations including ESPN reported. Players voted unanimously in December to give the board the authority to file the disclaimer, which would have allowed them to individually sue the league under antitrust claims.

Instead, the federal-mediated talks will continue today, ESPN said, two days after NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said that a deal must be reached by Jan. 11 in order to give teams a one-week training camp before opening the season on Jan. 19.

“We’ve said we need to drop the puck by Jan. 19 if we’re going to play a 48-game season,” Bettman said on Jan. 1, according to the Associated Press. “We don’t think it makes sense to play a season any shorter than that.”

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.

Prior to this week’s meetings in New York the groups hadn’t held face-to-face talks since Dec. 13, when federal mediators were present.

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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