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NHL, players' association to get together Wednesday in hopes of avoiding lockout

NEW YORK, N.Y. - The NHL and the players' association will resume negotiations on Wednesday in an effort to avoid a lockout this weekend.

After not meeting face to face since last Friday, the sides planned to get together at the league office in New York before the NHLPA holds player meetings later Wednesday.

The NHL board of governors will convene on Thursday with Commissioner Gary Bettman, while the union holds a second day of discussions with as many as 250 players.

The hastily scheduled negotiating session for Wednesday came just hours after NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said owners and players were both to blame for their failure to reach a new collective bargaining agreement before current deal expires on Saturday.

Daly wrote in an email to The Associated Press on Tuesday that he hoped both sides would meet before Saturday, but didn't sound optimistic it would happen.

"To this point, we have received no indication that the union has anything new to say to us. And right now, we have nothing new to say to them," he wrote Tuesday. "It's unfortunate, but it's the reality of the situation."

That changed Tuesday night. Whether the restart of talks will lead to a quick resolution remains to be seen. The NHL's labour contract expires at midnight Saturday night, and a lockout seems likely. It would be the league's fourth work stoppage since 1992.

"Ultimately, we just want to negotiate a fair deal that will give all our clubs an ability to be stable and healthy," Daly wrote. "We hoped (and still hope) we can do that without causing any interruption to the upcoming season. Logic would have suggested we would have been able to. The fact that we haven't yet is extremely disappointing, and is a failure for which we both must share blame."

Several hundred players are set to attend the NHLPA meetings Wednesday and Thursday to discuss the current state of CBA negotiations.

The board of governors could authorize Bettman to proceed with a lockout on Saturday if a new collective bargaining agreement hasn't been reached.

Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask fears the season will be delayed.

"I hear November, December and New Year's," he said Monday at Boston's annual golf pre-camp golf tournament. "But no one really knows."

Donald Fehr, who took over as union head two years ago, said his players are resigned to a work stoppage, which would follow lockouts last year in the NFL and the NBA.

Many of those players will gather in Manhattan this week in this off-season's biggest show of force. Pittsburgh captain Sidney Crosby, one of the league's biggest stars, is one of them. He skated on Tuesday with some of his Penguins teammates in suburban Pittsburgh and expects to be in New York on Wednesday.

Industry revenue has grown from $2.1 billion to $3.3 billion annually under the expiring deal. Owners asked players to cut their share of hockey related revenue from 57 to 43 per cent, and then modified their offer to 46 per cent during a six-year proposal. Players are concerned management hasn't addressed its problems by re-examining the teams' revenue-sharing format.

The sides haven't had a full bargaining session since Aug. 31 and the strife is threatening regular-season openers scheduled to start Oct. 11. The preseason schedule is set to begin on Sept. 19.

An 11-day strike in April 1992 caused 30 games to be postponed, and a 103-day lockout in 1994-95 caused the cancellation of 468 games and delayed the season's start until Jan. 20. The 2004 lockout started Sept. 16 when training camps were to open, as they are this year, and wasn't settled until July 13.

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