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NHL and Players Meet but Have Little to Say

Friday, February 4, 2005; Page D02

Despite the presence of NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and players' association chief Bob Goodenow at the negotiating table yesterday in New York, the sides were unable to reach an accord on a new collective bargaining agreement as the meeting went late into the night.

The session began at 1:30 p.m. at an undisclosed location as both sides mounted a last-ditch effort to salvage at least a portion of the 2004-05 season. At 8:48 p.m., the league released the following statement, which read in part:

_____ From The Post _____
 Greed
Mario Lemieux and Wayne Gretzky take part in six-hour meeting between NHL and players' union but no deal is reached.
Commissioner Gary Bettman officially cancels the NHL season.
There is speculation about where the league goes from here and whether it can survive.
Michael Wilbon: There's no question the league and its owners won this particular battle.
The cancellation may work to the Capitals' advantage in time.
Q&A: What's next?

_____ On Our Site _____
Audio: The Post's Thomas Heath discusses the end of the season.
Video: Bettman announces the cancellation of the season.
What's Your Opinion?

_____ Lockout At a Glance _____
NO SEASON: The NHL season was canceled Feb. 16 over a lockout that started before training camps opened last September. It's the first major North American sport to lose an entire season to a labor dispute.
THE REASON: The NHL and the players' association couldn't resolve how to split revenues from the $2 billion industry. The league demanded a salary cap, but by the time the players agreed to that, it was too late to work out how much the cap would be.
WHAT'S NEXT?: The NHL could seek the declaration of an impasse, which allowing it to implement its last offer, open training camps in September and invite players back. The players' association would likely respond with a strike.

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"In deference to the process, there will be no comment, and no further update is expected tonight."

About two hours later, the NHL Players Association released a statement, saying only that the meeting had ended for the night.

Neither side was optimistic following a meeting on Wednesday in which the players' association rejected the NHL's latest salary cap proposal, saying it was "not the basis for an agreement."

The players immediately requested the sides reconvene yesterday in New York, this time with Bettman and Goodenow, the NHLPA's executive director, at the table. Bettman and Goodenow had not met face-to-face since Dec. 9, spanning five informal meetings between the sides. The league's latest proposal included a link between player salaries and total league-wide revenue, or a salary cap. The union has remained steadfast in its opposition to a cap.

The sides did agree on one thing Wednesday: Time is running short. The lockout reached its 141st day yesterday and 772 regular season games and the All-Star Game have been canceled.

If an agreement is not reached in the coming days, it is expected that the stalemate will force the NHL to cancel the season.

-- Tarik El-Bashir


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