Owners and players return to table but no closer to deal

Wed Dec 12, 2012 8:37pm EST
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(Reuters) - National Hockey League owners and players returned to the bargaining table on Wednesday in a late push to salvage a scaled down season but the two sides appear no closer to reaching a deal.

After negotiations on a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA) collapsed last Thursday amid angry rhetoric, talks resumed at a secret location with NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and players union chief Donald Fehr, joined at the table by U.S. federal mediators, according to local media reports.

It marked the second time mediators have been brought in to try to jump start stalled negotiations that have now dragged on for nearly three months.

Owners locked out players on September 15 when the current CBA expired, plunging the league into its fourth work stoppage in 20 years.

Few details of the meeting have emerged other than there were no face-to-face negotiations, with mediators meeting both sides separately.

No new proposals were exchanged and there was no word on whether talks will continue.

The two parties returned to bargaining as pressure mounts to reach a deal or risk having the entire campaign wiped out like the 2004-05 season.

Bettman has said he cannot see the league playing less than a 48-game regular season schedule, and with 526 games, or more than 40 percent, of the season already canceled, time is quickly running out.

The two sides appear to have inched closer on the main sticking point of how to divide $3.3 billion in ice hockey related revenue.   Continued...

National Hockey League (NHL) Commissioner Gary Bettman gestures as he describes negotiations between the NHL and the NHL Players Association regarding the difficulties of their current labor negotiations in New York, December 6, 2012. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson