The NHL proposed six ways to control player salary costs during a four-hour meeting with the NHL Players Association in New York yesterday, but both sides departed without any progress toward a new labor agreement.
"I don't think there were any breakthroughs," said NHL executive vice president Bill Daly, who characterized the meeting as "another necessary step in the process" toward a new collective bargaining agreement between owners and players.
The labor agreement expires Sept. 15, and the NHL is likely to lock the players out if it doesn't have an agreement in place that controls player salaries.
Ted Saskin, senior director of NHLPA and its chief negotiator, said the league's commitment to capping player salaries "is a nonstarter for us."
"Each of the system concepts outlined by the NHL begins and ends with a salary cap, and that provides no basis for any progress at this time," Saskin said. "The situation hasn't changed at all."
The league has said it needs to control rising player costs in order to survive. Average player salaries have increased to $1.79 million in 2002-03 and consume about 76 percent of revenues.
The league's 30 teams lost a combined $273 million during the 2002-03 season on $1.96 billion in revenue, with 19 teams losing money and 11 profitable, according to the NHL. The union disputes the NHL's figures and says the dire financial condition is an exaggeration.
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and NHLPA Executive Director Robert Goodenow attended yesterday's negotiation. The sides are scheduled to meet again Aug. 4. The NHL confirmed yesterday that it has a contingency plan in place to lay off half of its workforce on Sept. 20 if there is no labor agreement by Sept 16.
-- Thomas Heath