NHL deal 'unstoppable'

BRUCE GARRIOCH -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 6:53 PM ET

A vital new player is finally sitting at the NHL's bargaining table: Trust.

League sources told the Sun yesterday that representatives of the NHL and the Players' Association may have cleared one major hurdle in their bid for a new CBA by agreeing on the way revenues are reported.

Accounting has always been a big issue between the negotiating teams for NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and union executive director Bob Goodenow.

In the past, the union has flatly rejected the league's numbers and refused to take the Levitt Report seriously or meet with its author, Arthur Levitt. But now, the two sides are on the same page and working toward an agreement.

"If they can agree on where the revenues are coming from and where the money is going, then that's a big step. That means all they have left to talk about is the numbers," said a league source. "This could be a major breakthrough."

While the road to this point has been long and arduous, sources say the two sides can finally start getting down to brass tacks -- and into the substance of the new deal -- when talks resume next week in Toronto.

"Things are going in the right direction," said another NHL source yesterday. "(The two sides) seem to be working with each other, rather than against each other.

'A GOOD WEEK'

"It was a good week, with progress in several different areas."

Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson, a member of the NHLPA's negotiating team and VP on its executive committee, couldn't be reached for comment. But indications are a deal is not going to be finalized quickly.

There were reports out of Toronto last week that a deal was imminent. But officials with the NHL and the union have denied such talk because putting together a new CBA is not going to be a simple process.

In fact, a league source predicted it could take until July 1 before an agreement is signed, sealed and delivered. There's also a strong belief Goodenow will make some noise before this process is complete, because he has always been against a salary cap with a link between revenues and expenses.

"The deal is getting done. It's just a matter of time ... It's unstoppable now," said an NHL source. "Even though significant areas of disagreement exist, the horse trading is going on.

"The real question is: Will the players ratify the deal? A linkage deal at 54% of revenues with a 24% (salary) rollback will be a tough sell to the majority of the players."

Once a deal is completed, the NHLPA's executive committee must take it to the 700-plus players for ratification.

bruce.garrioch@ott.sunpub.com


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