League, PA make progress

LANCE HORNBY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:23 AM ET

The National Hockey League Players Association didn't wait for a Friday deadline to reject a pair of unpalatable offers from the owners and offered no formal proposal of its own.

But that didn't mean yesterday's seven-hour meeting in Toronto was a waste of time. Despite the players refusing both a $37.5-million US salary cap and a "linked" proposal holding player costs to no more than 54% of league revenues and facing a second charge by the league to the National Labour Relations Board, there was a hint of optimism.

A source close to the meeting told Rogers Sportsnet last night that among new concepts discussed yesterday, one emerged as potentially workable, though a deal remains a long way off. Another source went as far as to call yesterday's session, the first since March 17, as "very productive."

Official statements from Bill Daly, the league's executive vice-president, and Ted Saskin, the union's senior director, did not delve into specifics, but seemed to echo the glimmer of hope.

"We discussed the status of our current situation and, in general terms, possible concepts for moving the process forward," Daly said. "The meeting concluded with both sides agreeing to explore these concepts further internally, and to talk again later this week."

As well as heavy hitters from both sides, such as commisioner Gary Bettman and NHLPA executive director Bob Goodenow, yesterday's talks brought in five players from the union executive, while ownership invited a group that included chairman of the board Harley Hotchkiss of the Calgary Flames and New Jersey Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello.

But as the two sides talked, the league went back to the NLRB and challenged the union's threat of de-certification for agents representing replacement players.

The PA has warned agents, although not in writing, they face possible de-certification if they represented any player crossing the line this autumn when the league has vowed to open.

The replacement issue will be on the agenda at the next board meeting on April 20.


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