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NHL, players' union open labour negotiations with meeting

NHL Players Association executive director Donald Fehr listens to a question during a news conference after a meeting of the NHLPA executive board in Chicago, Wednesday, June 27, 2012. (AP Photo/Sitthixay Ditthavong)

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NHL Players Association executive director Donald Fehr listens to a question during a news conference after a meeting of the NHLPA executive board in Chicago, Wednesday, June 27, 2012. (AP Photo/Sitthixay Ditthavong)

NEW YORK, N.Y. - The NHL and the players' union opened negotiations on a new labour deal Friday by meeting for about 2 1/2 hours.

Commissioner Gary Bettman and Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly met with NHLPA Executive Director Donald Fehr, union special counsel Steve Fehr and several player reps at the league's Manhattan offices.

"Members of our League Office staff and several of our owners met today with the NHLPA and various members of the players' negotiating committee at the League Office in New York," Daly said in a statement released after the meetings. "The meeting was very cordial and we hope it was constructive.

"Before breaking, the parties discussed follow-up steps and confirmed plans for future meetings. We have nothing further to report at this time."

Washington Capitals owner Ted Leonsis declined to comment as he left the building and hopped into a waiting car.

"Following today's meeting, we will review the NHL's initial presentation with the Players' committee before reconvening for further talks later next week." Donald Fehr said.

Among the players in attendance were Scott Hartnell of the Flyers, Rick DiPietro of the Islanders and George Parros of the Anaheim Ducks, Chris Campoli of the Canadiens, Dan Winnik of the Sharks, Brandon Dubinsky of the Rangers, Brad Boyes of the Sabres, Ron Hainsey of the Jets.

This was the first formal talks between the two sides. They come after the NHLPA's executive board held a three-day meeting in Chicago earlier this week.

The collective bargaining agreement expires Sept. 15. There is fear the league could be heading toward another lockout.

The owners locked out the players in 2004 and it cost the NHL an entire season. The agreement that came out of that deal put in place a salary cap for teams for the first time.

Fehr, the former head of the baseball players' union who was hired by the NHLPA after the last labour deal was cut, noted earlier this week in Chicago that the sides could elect to start the season without a deal if negotiations were ongoing.

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