NHL players’ union gives counteroffer as talks resume

AP, NEW YORK

Wed, Jan 02, 2013 - Page 20

The NHL players’ union presented a counteroffer to the league on Monday and waited for a response in the latest effort to resolve a lockout and start a shortened season.

The sides met at NHL headquarters and negotiated for the first time since they met with a federal mediator on Dec. 13. After presenting their proposal, union representatives stayed in the building in case there were further discussions — later, with talks done for the day, the union said it expected a response from the NHL yesterday morning.

The New Year’s clock ticked down while the window to reach a labor agreement to save the season was rapidly closing. No one has said exactly how much time remains, but the belief is the NHL wants an abbreviated season to start no later than Jan. 19.

That leaves a little less than two weeks to reach an agreement and hold one week of training camp before the puck would drop on a 48-game campaign.

So far, a deal has proved elusive and well out of reach.

The league and the union had informational discussions — by conference call and in meetings — with staff members that lasted much of Saturday and ended on Sunday. Those talks were spurred by the nearly 300-page contract proposal the NHL presented to the union on Thursday.

All games through Jan. 14 have been canceled, claiming more than 50 percent of the original schedule. The NHL wants to reach a deal by Jan. 11 and open the season eight days later.

Bargaining sessions with only the NHL and union hadn’t been held since Dec. 6, when talks abruptly ended after the players’ association made a counterproposal. The league said that offer was contingent on the union accepting three elements unconditionally and without further bargaining.

The NHL then pulled all existing offers off the table. Two days of sessions with mediators the following week ended without progress.

A person familiar with key points of that previous offer said that the league proposed raising the limit of individual free-agent contracts to six years from five — seven years if a team re-signs its own player; raising the salary variance from one year to another to 10 percent, up from 5 percent; and one compliance buyout for the 2013-2014 season that would not count toward a team’s salary cap, but would be included in the overall players’ share of income.

The person spoke on condition of anonymity because details were not being discussed publicly.