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Collective bargaining talks scheduled to resume as NHL lockout hits a month

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman (left) and Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly make their way to speak with the media following collective bargaining talks in Toronto on Tuesday, August 14, 2012. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

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NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman (left) and Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly make their way to speak with the media following collective bargaining talks in Toronto on Tuesday, August 14, 2012. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

TORONTO - The key negotiators in the NHL's collective bargaining talks will look to start bridging the gap on economic issues when they resume negotiations.

A meeting between the league and union is scheduled for Tuesday morning where the sides will discuss "ideas for moving the process forward on the main issues," according to deputy commissioner Bill Daly.

Beyond that, there is no set agenda.

The session will feature the Big Four involved in talks—commissioner Gary Bettman and Daly for the NHL, and executive director Donald Fehr and special counsel Steve Fehr for the NHL Players' Association.

The sides have maintained a frequent dialogue since the lockout was enacted on Sept. 15, but haven't reported much progress. Meetings have largely centred on secondary issues such as drug testing and grievance procedures, and the league has been pushing for the NHLPA to deliver a new proposal on the system for dividing up revenues.

"We understand that they've been working on some concepts, some ideas—we've suggested to them just make the proposal," Daly said last week after a bargaining session in New York. "Any movement is better than no movement at all. Hopefully we've moved it forward, but even if we move backwards it might be better than where we are now.

"That was our message to them."

The union has maintained that the league could also make the next proposal.

"We're always working on ideas to contribute to proposals, and Bill knows that because I've told him that on a regular basis," Steve Fehr said last week. "We hope they're doing the same thing. Nobody should stand on ceremony."

Neither side has formally tabled an offer since Sept. 12, when they each put one on the table. Both of those expired when the lockout started.

The union put forward a five-year deal that would see the players' share in revenue fall from roughly 54 per cent to 52 per cent during the contract. The league's offer was over six years and would see the players start with 49 per cent and fall to 47 per cent.

The players received 57 per cent in the final years of the last CBA.

The talks are set to resume just days before the next batch of regular season games is expected to be wiped out by the lockout. The NHL has already cancelled 82 games through Oct. 24 and will likely take more off the schedule by the end of the week.

Daly recently estimated the work stoppage has already cost the league almost $250 million in revenue.

The players have started to feel the pinch as well. Had the regular season started as scheduled, they would have received their first pay cheque on Monday. It's one of just 13 they would have been given during the 2012-13 season.

Meantime, with the lockout dragging on, the league has turned to market research firm Luntz Global to conduct a focus group about fans' perceptions. On Monday, Deadspin revealed details from a session conducted last week in Washington—which included a question about which side the respondent favoured in the dispute—and company founder Frank Luntz later released a statement about the work he's done for the NHL.

"The research was no different from what I and others in my field have done for sports teams, sports leagues, and players' unions for many, many years," said Luntz, a noted Republican Party strategist.

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