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NHL Players Want to Talk; Owners Reviewing Proposal


The National ice Hockey League's team owners and Commissioner Gary Bettman are reviewing a player proposal aimed at ending the labor dispute that has kept players off the ice all season. The NHL is trying to avoid becoming the first North American professional sports league to lose an entire season to a labor problem.

The NHL Players' Union has offered an immediate 24 percent rollback of salaries as the main point of its proposal to owners. The players say all current contracts would be cut and that would save the NHL more than one billion dollars over the next six years.

NHL Players' Union President Trevor Linden of the Vancouver Canucks said his membership is willing to take the big cuts in order to resume playing. "It took us a long time to get our heads around how far we had to go, but we felt those steps were necessary to play hockey. And I think that as hockey players being locked out and understanding the situation we wanted to get the game back on ice," he said.

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said he will review the proposal, but cannot promise that it will end the lockout, which has sidelined players since October. "With respect to what we still need to make this league healthy going forward, what type of system, I have always had a firm set of beliefs in that regard. And while I intend to thoroughly review and consider their proposal, I do have an understanding of what we need," he said.

Owners were also offered concessions on the rookie salary cap, as well as a plan to redistribute revenue to small market clubs. NHL Players Association Executive Board member Bill Guerin of the Dallas Stars said players know sacrifices will be needed to get back to work. "They realize the magnitude of the 24 percent [salary] rollback, and the financial sacrifice that it is, but in order to get things going, to get this league going again and to have not just a year, but to make things right again, this is what we have to do," he said.

Commissioner Bettman will review the 236-page proposal and is expected make a counter-offer on Tuesday. Bettman says teams have lost $1.8 billion over 10 years, and management will not agree to any deal that does not include a defined relationship between the teams' revenue and the salaries they pay to players.

As of Friday, 382 regular season games and the All-Star Game have been cancelled. Experts say if the two sides cannot reach agreement soon, the entire season could be lost.

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