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NHL mulls counter-proposal from players

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, pictured in New York, on December 4, 2012
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman arrives for a negotiation session with the NHL Players Association at the Westin Times Square Hotel in New York, on December 4, 2012. With the clock ticking toward cancellation of the entire NHL season, the players' union has

With the clock ticking toward cancellation of the entire NHL season, the players' union presented a response to the latest league contract proposal with the sides due to talk again Tuesday.

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman on Monday said the union's response was "a comprehensive one" that dealt with the issues put forward by the league.

Once league officials have had a chance to review it, Bettman said, he expected the two sides to get together again on Tuesday.

Team owners have already wiped out 625 games through January 14, just over half the planned schedule that was to have started in October, and vow they will not stage a season with less than 48 games per team.

That means a deal by mid-January is essential if the league isn't to lose the entire season to the lockout that began in September after the previous contract expired.

If that doesn't happen, the league is faced with cancelling the entire season for the second time, after a similar bitter dispute over finances scuppered all games in 2004-05.

On Friday, league officials confirmed they had made a new contract proposal to players.

Deputy commissioner Bill Daly declined to go into specifics, but the proposal was reported to include a six-year limit on player contracts -- up from the five years the league had sought previously -- along with movement toward the players on issues including year-to-year salary variance and contract buy-out regulations.

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