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updated: 10/19/2012 12:22 AM

Another unfortunate step back in NHL labor talks

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  • NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, left foreground, and Calgary Flames co-owner Murray Edwards arrive for negotiations with the NHL Players Association in Toronto Thursday.

    NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, left foreground, and Calgary Flames co-owner Murray Edwards arrive for negotiations with the NHL Players Association in Toronto Thursday.
    Associated Press/The Canadian Press


So much for optimism.

The NHL Players Association on Thursday presented three different counterproposals to the league in hopes of ending the lockout, and all three were rejected by the owners.

According to NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, none of the three proposals came close to approaching the 50-50 split of hockey-related revenue (HRR) the owners proposed earlier in the week.

Bettman termed Thursday's proceedings a step back.

"It's clear we're not speaking the same language," he said. "I am concerned we are not progressing. The fact is, we're nowhere close to what we proposed."

No further talks are planned, although the deadline to preserve the full 82-game schedule still is a week away.

"I don't know what the next step is," Bettman said. "I'm obviously very discouraged."

So are the players, who felt they made a strong proposal.

"As players, we know we tabled a great deal today," texted Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews, one of 18 players in Toronto for Thursday's short session. "They're still unwilling to come to the table and really talk.

"Our biggest concern is obviously that our current contracts continue to be honored as we progressively make our way to a 50-50 split between the league and the players.

"Our proposal today included that, and it's funny how the league claims to negotiate in good faith when they wait this long to give us their so-called 'best deal possible.'"

NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr said the league's current offer was to reduce player's salary by 12.3 percent, adding that players don't consider it fair.

"The players offered to make real concessions in terms of reducing their share of HRR, with some small degree of protection," Fehr said. "The players don't see any reason to take less in terms of dollars."

According to Fehr, the first of their three scenarios would hit 50-50 in three years, the second would hit 50-50 by Year 5, and the third hits the 50-50 HRR split immediately but only if the owners honor all current contracts at 100 percent.

NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly felt the need to issue a statement disputing the union's 50-50 claim.

"The so-called 50-50 deal, plus honoring current contracts proposed by the NHL Players Association earlier today, is being misrepresented," Daly said. "It is not a 50-50 deal. It is most likely a 56- to 57-percent deal in Year 1 and never gets to 50 percent during the proposed five-year term of the agreement.

"The proposal contemplates paying the players approximately $650 million outside of the players' share. In effect, the union is proposing to change the accounting rules to be able to say '50-50,' when in reality it is not.

"The union told us that they had not yet 'run the numbers.' We did."

Blah. Blah. Blah.

This is an embarrassment for a league that missed an entire season only seven years ago. And fans are getting sick of it all.

Some heavy hitters were on hand Thursday for both sides. In addition to Toews, Penguins star Sidney Crosby and Calgary's Jarome Iginla attended for the union. The owners brought out Boston's Jeremy Jacobs, Minnesota's Craig Leipold, Calgary's Murray Edwards and Washington's Ted Leonsis.

"We came in here today with those proposals thinking that we could really make some progress," Crosby said. "To hear those words (from Bettman) kind of shuts it down pretty quickly. In a nutshell, it doesn't look good."

Shame on all of them.

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