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Bettman: NHL paying players too much

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman at a press conference in Toronto on Wednesday, August 15, 2012. (QMI...

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman at a press conference in Toronto on Wednesday, August 15, 2012. (QMI Agency/VERONICA HENRI)

LANCE HORNBY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 5:17 PM ET

TORONTO - A smaller group will try and bridge a big gap when the collective bargaining talks move to New York on Tuesday.

With a National Hockey League lockout now 23 days away from being invoked and lots to cover, a second day of discussions in Toronto ended Thursday with the owners hearing full formal details of the players’ view of economic systems and contracts — and responding with little enthusiasm.

“It’s fair to say we’re far apart in that regard,” commissioner Gary Bettman said as he exited NHLPA offices. “We’re at a point where it’s difficult to move this process along until we deal with fundamental economic issues.”

Thus Bettman, deputy Bill Daly, uinion executive director Donald Fehr and his top aide Steve Fehr will again meet separately in New York ahead of what was going to be a marathon session of full armies from both sides.

“We’re going to do some homework to hopefully figure a way to get on the same page,” Bettman added. “Both sides agree this might be a productive way to try and get some traction.

“If I had to generalize the characteristics (of recent talks), the union is looking for a system with more flexibility and we’re looking for one with less, that’s more akin to what we envisioned eight years ago (heading into the last CBA). We believe we’re paying the players more than we should.”

Bettman said he has not entertained the idea of planning for a compressed NHL schedule that might result from his owners’ lockout.

“I still believe there’s enough time if there’s a mutual will (to avoid a shutdown),” Fehr said of planning Tuesday’s agenda.

The union has proposed taking a smaller piece of the revenue pie, down from the current 57% which the owners have long balked at, but clearly players don’t intend to give back all their gains from previous years. They were stung by the owners' first proposal this month which included reductions in revenue sharing to 43%, longer service until free agency and a reduction in the length of big-dollar contracts.

The worry in talks moving to a smaller group is that it’s getting late in the game to still be framing the agenda without yet getting to the crux of the matter. So much time has been wasted on posturing already.

“Sometimes it becomes more or less cumbersome depending on the nature of the group and what you’re talking about,” Fehr said of dropping to a four-person group. “You try one way and it doesn’t work, so you try another and then a third way. Sometimes the (process is better served by taking time (before Tuesday) to consider, ponder and talk to your constituents and then come back. Whether (the next four days) are productive remains to be seen.”

There were some discussions on Thursday relating to minor issues such as increasing the players’ share of the playoff pool, buyouts and the drafting of college players.


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