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Bettman says 'work to do'

The NHL and NHL Players' Association appear to be inching slowly towards a deal to salvage the hockey season.

But they still have plenty of ground to cover.

With collective bargaining talks reaching a critical point, the sides have quietly exchanged new proposals and are committed to picking up talks again on Friday. It will be the fourth straight day they've sat across from one another during an intense week of bargaining.

"We have work to do," commissioner Gary Bettman said Thursday night.

Little is known about exactly where talks stand.

Sources told The Canadian Press that the NHL responded to a pair of union proposals on Thursday and one suggested it was a good sign the sides still planned to keep negotiating. On Wednesday night, the NHLPA tabled new offers regarding revenue sharing and the league's "make whole" provision, with the union suggesting a system where the players' share in revenue reaches 50-50 in the third year of the deal.

That still amounts to a major financial concession, as much as $1 billion over the course of the deal, from the current split of 57-43 in favour of the players.

As a result, the NHLPA is asking for an improved revenue sharing system and isn't eager to see changes made to rules governing contracts, many of which were won in the last round of negotiations.

Bettman and Donald Fehr, the NHLPA's executive director, were extremely careful not to reveal much about discussions after meeting for more than five hours on Thursday.

"I'm not going to characterize (the talks) except to say, as I have before, that it's always better when you're meeting than when you're not," said Fehr.

With all regular-season games cancelled through Nov. 30, negotiations have reached a critical and delicate stage. Ten days will be needed from the time an agreement is struck until the season starts and there is still hope among the parties that a shortened schedule could begin by Dec. 1.

For that to happen, signs of progress need to emerge soon, something neither side is entirely sure will happen.

"Collective bargaining is a process and it has peaks and valleys and ebbs and flows and it's very tough to handicap," said Bettman.

The Canadian Press


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