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Fehr says NHLPA close to counter-proposal

Donald Fehr is head of the NHLPA

Haraz N. Ghanbari/AP

Donald Fehr thinks a counter-proposal is coming soon from the NHL Players' Association in the labour negotiations with the NHL owners but he does not want to commit to a date.

"I doubt that it will be weeks plural," Fehr said Tuesday in answer to the question after a three-hour meeting between the sides in Toronto. "Could be it be two? Yeah, it could be two. It could be less. I can't tell you."

Fehr, the union's executive director, and a group of players met with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, deputy commissioner Bill Daly and several NHL executives at the NHLPA offices. They will meet again Wednesday and Thursday and then reconvene next week in New York for more discussions about a new collective agreement to replace the one that expires Sept. 15.

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When the NHL made its first offer, the owners demanded a 22-per-cent rollback in the players' share of the revenue by chopping their take from 57 per cent to 46 and by re-defining hockey-related revenue to make it smaller than the current amount. The league also demanded an end to salary arbitration, an increase a player's eligibility for unrestricted free agency from seven years to 10 and contract limits of five years.

The union asked for more financial information from the NHL after its first offer and Fehr said the league is still preparing some of it. Once the union gets all of the information and then analyzes it, a counter-offer will be in the works.

Tuesday's session, about which Bettman said "the temperature in the room has been good," concerned player discipline. Brendan Shanahan and Colin Campbell, the two NHL vice-presidents who handle player discipline, attended the talks.

"It's no secret that's an issue which sparked a lot of discussion among players," was all Fehr would say about the matter. Bettman also declined to discuss any details.

However, it is known the players would like to change at least one thing about the current system: Bettman is the only person who handles appeals for suspensions or fines. There has been talk for several years about establishing an independent sounding board for such appeals.

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