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NHL lockout: League cancels rest of pre-season, talks resume Friday


MIKE SEGAR/REUTERS Minnesota Wild forward Zach Parise could be the next NHL star bound for Europe. He says he’s considering an offer to play in Switzerland if meetings this weekend between the league and NHLPA appear to go nowhere.

On the eve of the next round of talks with the NHL PlayersAssociation, the NHL cancelled the remainder of the league’s pre-season on Thursday.

All training camps and all exhibition games are now history.

“The cancellation of the pre-season schedule was necessary because of the absence of a collective bargaining agreement between the NHL Players’ Association and the NHL,” the league said on its website.

The league cancelled the first half of the pre-season on Sept. 19. The latest move was not that surprising, but the timing was curious. It’s a reminder that the league holds the hammer in negotiations just as the two sides prepare to meet Friday for the first time since Sept. 12 .

The two sides are gathering in New York to discuss what both are calling “non-core economic issues” — pensions, benefits, medical issues. The talks are scheduled to go for three days.

Neither side will say they’re coming armed with a new proposal and the prospects of a new deal by Sunday are grim.

The popular thinking — as framed by the NHL — is that it is up to the players to come with a new proposal. The league made the last proposal, one that would see the players’ share of hockey related revenue drop to 47 per cent over six years. The owners want rollbacks of some sort, about 17.5 per cent in pay, in the first year of a new agreement.

The players currently get 57 per cent of hockey related revenue, which amounted to $ 1.87 billion last season.

A source on the players’ side said concessions are the theme of their proposals (every proposal so far has included concessions by the players) and they’re still waiting to see if the NHL makes an offer with concessions included.

The players’ latest proposal sees $ 1.87 billion as a starting point on salaries, with the players taking a smaller percentage through the years as revenue grows. The two sides are about $ 1 billion apart on a five-year basis.

If talks end badly by Sunday, some players surmise that an exodus to Europe will follow. About 60 NHLers are already over there, but the number could quickly reach into the hundreds.

Zach Parise, for example, told the Minnesota Star Tribune he has an opportunity to play for a team he wouldn’t disclose in Switzerland, adding he will make that decision soon if the meetings this weekend appear to go nowhere.

“Keeping our fingers crossed,” Parise told the Star Tribune. “I think everyone’s still in a holding pattern waiting to see where this is going, but at some point, you have to worry about yourself and make sure you’re ready to play.”

Meanwhile, some AHL-eligible young players who would otherwise be in an NHL camp found themselves in the minors with AHL camps opening UPEND across North America.

“Everyone would like to get a deal done,” said Leafs defenceman Jake Gardiner on his first day in Marlies camp. “I think we’re trying to get towards that. It’s just not happening right now.

“Everybody’s question every day is when is this thing going to end. Until there’s a fair deal, I don’t think it’s going to happen. Hopefully the negotiating goes well and we’ll go from there.” – Sports

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