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Thursday's discussions marked the fourth time in six days that face-to-face negotiations have taken place after both sides rejected proposals Oct. 18. The lockout, which began Sept. 16 after the collective bargaining agreement expired, has forced the cancellation of 327 regular-season games, including the New Year's Day Winter Classic in Michigan.
It was unclear if the NHL made counterproposals to offers it received from the union on Wednesday. The belief is that the players' association has agreed to a 50-50 split of hockey-related revenues, but that even division wouldn't kick in until the third year of the deal.
"Collective bargaining is a process, and it has peaks and valleys and ebbs and flows," Bettman said. "It is very tough to handicap."
It was also difficult for the NHL and the union to keep the location of the talks hidden. On Thursday it was revealed that negotiations were being conducted at the law offices of Proskauer Rose -- the firm of NHL lead counsel Bob Batterman.
Revenue sharing and the make-whole provision are major hurdles in the way of making a deal. On Wednesday, the sides spent more than five hours dealing with the most contentious areas. Coupled with the more than seven hours they spent negotiating Tuesday, owners and players were together about 13 hours this week before reconvening Thursday.
There is clearly still much to be done to work out the differences to reach a deal that will allow the delayed and shortened season to begin.
Along with a handful of team owners, eight players attended Wednesday's talks, five fewer than Tuesday. Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby and others left New York to try to avoid the impending snowstorm that hit the area, the union said.
On Thursday, seven players were in attendance, according to the NHLPA, and at least three owners.
In October, the players' association responded to an NHL offer with three of its own, but all of those were quickly dismissed by the league. That led to nearly three weeks without face-to-face discussions, although the parties kept in regular contact by phone.
Both sides have made proposals that included a 50-50 split of hockey-related revenues. The NHL has moved toward the players' side in the "make-whole" provision and whose share of the economic pie that money will come from.
Along with the split of hockey-related revenue and other core economic issues, contract lengths, arbitration and free agency also must be agreed upon.
The union accepted a salary cap in the previous labor pact, which wasn't reached until after the entire 2004-05 season was canceled because of a lockout. The union doesn't want to absorb the majority of concessions this time after the NHL had record revenue that exceeded $3 billion last season.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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