Representatives from the NHL and its players' union failed to make progress toward a new labor agreement during a four-hour meeting in Toronto yesterday, according to participants from both sides.

A stark division apparently exists between the league and the NHL Players Association, with the league insisting on a salary cap system that ties total player payroll costs to a percentage of league revenue. The league has introduced several concepts in the negotiations to reach their goal.

The union flatly opposes any such system. The union has instead proposed a combination of luxury taxes, revenue sharing among teams, a lowering of the base salary for entry-level players and a one-time salary rollback.

"What's becoming painfully apparent is they are married to the status quo and tweaks to the status quo," said NHL executive vice president Bill Daly. "And given what the status quo has produced, that's not going to get it done."

Players' union senior director Ted Saskin said that the NHL is intent on locking out the players when the current agreement expires after Sept. 15 in order to coerce the players into accepting a salary cap.

"We have made it clear that we are not prepared to negotiate a salary cap," said Saskin. As a result, he said, "I can't have any optimism today."

-- Thomas Heath