No talk of L-word

JONATHAN HUNTINGTON -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 8:27 AM ET

If the Canadian Football League took a page out of the NHL's playbook, the start of the football season would be in jeopardy.

With the regular season just 15 days away, the players' association and the league still don't have a new collective bargaining agreement.

But there is no sense of panic on either side of the negotiating table.

There is no talk of a lockout on the horizon - and not even the slightest whisper of animosity can be heard.

WORKING TOGETHER

"I am impressed in the manner in which the players and owners and the league office are all working together," said defensive end Tim Fleiszer, the Eskimos' player association rep.

"We understand we are all partners in this business and we are working toward our collective success. We benefit more from co-operation than we do from animosity."

The old deal officially expired last month, but the two sides have actually been negotiating for six months.

"Sometimes it takes time (to get a deal done)," said Eskimo COO Rick LeLacheur. "But I don't think there will be a lockout."

A possible new deal is quietly floating around to different teams for players to examine.

The Eskimos secretly voted on the latest proposal on Monday - but the results aren't being released.

However, Fleiszer doesn't believe the two sides are far apart on a contract, which - obviously - centres around money.

The players want the minimum salary raised and an increase in their pension, among other items.

The latest proposal does offer an increase from the $37,000 bottom-level salary, but it's unclear how big the raise really is.

As for the league owners, many want the salary management system to be part of the new CBA - and Fleiszer believes the majority of the players will support a salary cap because it could eventually lead to more teams and more player jobs down the road.

STILL TALKING EXPANSION

"We would like to see football back in Ottawa, possibly somewhere in Atlantic Canada and also in Quebec City," he said.

"We understand that if a prospective owner is able to properly estimate their own costs that will help them and be enticing.

"We also understand that equal competition across the board is beneficial to the league. It is good for the fans and the game. Look at the success the NFL has had (with a salary cap)."

If a new CBA can't be reached before the June 16th league opener in Montreal, the old deal will likely be brought back into existence.


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