05/20/05 — NHL, players hold 14-hour meeting in New York

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NHL, players hold 14-hour meeting in New York

By News-Argus Staff
Published in Sports on May 20, 2005 1:47 PM

NEW YORK -- The NHL and the players' association met for 14 hours Thursday in the longest bargaining session since the lockout began last September.

Little progress was made, but there was good dialogue on many topics throughout the long day, a source close to the negotiations told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.

That followed two days of less formal discussions without NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and players' association executive director Bob Goodenow. The respective leaders were expected to talk Friday morning to plan the next meeting.

Getting together during the day remained a possibility.

"We're done for the night," NHL chief legal officer Bill Daly said. "We're going to talk tomorrow morning to discuss next steps."

Shortly after the meeting broke up around midnight, union spokesman Jonathan Weatherdon said there would be no further comment from the players.

The sides met in smaller groups on Tuesday and Wednesday, reviewing the finances of the 30 teams and how each club reports its figures.

Working off the April 4 concept offered by the players' association, the league and union were trying to find an agreeable way that the team-by-team upper salary cap could move each year depending on revenues.

That union proposal contained an upper cap of $50 million and a floor of $30 million.

The NHL made a new offer to the players earlier this month, but that didn't lead to any immediate progress, either.

NHL officials have repeatedly stated that this is a critical time to reach a deal because it would like to line up its sponsors and advertisers, and settle its television deals during the summer so the league can begin play on time in October.

By reaching an agreement now, teams could also begin the difficult process of selling season tickets after a full hockey year was lost to the lockout.

The sides have gotten together several consecutive weeks and would like to keep on that schedule until a new collective bargaining agreement is hammered out.

By meeting in smaller groups for two days earlier this week, the hope was that headway could be made before Thursday's full bargaining session.

Last week, during three straight days of meetings, the NHL formally presented the findings of Arthur Levitt, the former securities and exchange commission chairman who was hired by the NHL to conduct an independent study into the league's finances.

Levitt's report, released in February 2004, revealed losses of $273 million during the 2002-03 season on revenues of $1.996 billion, which he said threatened the NHL's viability.

That was the first time the report was discussed at the bargaining table. Last week's meetings were only supposed to last one day, but the sides instead got together for three in New York, putting off trips to Austria for the conclusion of the world hockey championships.

The union challenged Levitt's findings when the report was released, and Goodenow has called the report "simply another league public relations initiative."

Levitt found that only 11 of 30 teams were profitable in 2002-03, but the union doesn't trust the financial figures that teams report.

Even years before negotiations began on a new collective bargaining agreement, the sides were not able to agree on what qualifies as revenue.

Thursday's marathon negotiations marked the 10th full bargaining session since Bettman called off the entire 2004-05 season on Feb. 16.

Goodenow and Bettman spent Wednesday testifying on Capitol Hill before a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee pursuing legislation on drug testing in sports.