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NHLPA members 'disappointed' after league dismisses CBA proposal

TORONTO - One day after hearing NHL commissioner Gary Bettman say a "wide gap" remained in collective bargaining negotiations, players were still upset the owners quickly dismissed their initial proposal this week.

"The industry's grown a billion dollars since (the lockout) and basically they just want more money," Chris Campoli, a member of the NHLPA's negotiating committee, said Thursday.

"I thought in our proposal we made a step and considerable concessions to them," he added. "Frankly, it was a little disappointing to see the response yesterday and the view they have on it."

Campoli was one of three NHL players who took part in Thursday's sub-committee meetings, which covered secondary issues not related to the economic ones that have divided the sides.

An unrestricted free agent who spent last season in Montreal, Campoli has emerged as one of the strongest voices among the players. The veteran defenceman has attended six bargaining sessions this summer and was hopeful that Tuesday's NHLPA proposal might kickstart negotiations.

The players offered to keep a hard salary cap and put a drag on their salaries in exchange for an expanded revenue-sharing system—but Bettman and the owners weren't in favour of it.

Campoli said he thought it was a much more reasonable offer than the one put forward by the NHL last month, which called for a 24 per cent reduction in salaries and included new contract restrictions.

"I just think they took such an aggressive stance with their first proposal," said Campoli. "We could have taken an aggressive stance the other way and we didn't. You know, we want to fix the systematic issues they have with the way things are run and I think we're being more than fair."

The CBA topic was also raised in Philadelphia, where forward Wayne Simmonds signed a six-year contract extension worth slightly less than $24 million. He's anxious to see the situation get resolved.

"This is my first time going through this and I'm really not too familiar with the process," said Simmonds. "But from all the players' accounts, we want to play. We're ready to start."

It's unclear when they'll get the chance.

With a Sept. 15 deadline looming for a lockout and the sides still far apart, the league appears to be headed for its second work stoppage in as many negotiations.

"It would be incredible how much it would hurt," said Campoli. "We don't want that as players and I think our proposal shows that. We want to get something done, we're working towards it.

"The fact that we continually have to talk about this speaks to the issues we really have and the system we're in and it's got to change."

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